The New York Knicks, in the throes of their longest winning streak of the season despite periods of turmoil, fired general manager and vice president Al Bianchi on Friday and named Dave Checketts as president.
Checketts and Richard Evans, president and chief executive officer of Madison Square Garden, said Bianchi's position would be terminated and that a vice president of player personnel would be chosen, probably after the season."There are a number of people Dave and I will be looking at," Evans said. "But we do not discuss candidates. We haven't identified all the candidates yet. Right now, there are three or four."
Checketts and Evans, however, insisted that John MacLeod would remain as coach of the team through the rest of the season.
Bianchi, reached at his home, declined to comment on his firing. Asked if he thought his job would have been saved had he swung a trade before the Feb. 21 trading deadline, he responded: "I just don't know. You'll have to ask someone on the Knicks about that."
The Knicks, after rallying from a 19-1 deficit and beating San Antonio 100-93 Thursday night for their fourth straight victory, are 26-31 and in third place in the Atlantic Division, 16 games behind first-place Boston. Until defeating Washington in overtime Tuesday night, the Knicks had the league's worst home record, 11-17.
Meanwhile, All-Star center Patrick Ewing has voiced his displeasure with the club's performance, attendance is down from last season, and Stu Jackson, who began the season as coach, was replaced after 15 games by MacLeod.
Evans said the decision to dismiss dimiss Bianchi was made about a month ago, and had nothing to do with recent developments.
Checketts, 35, joined the NBA last season as a consultant and had been serving as vice president of development since Sept. 1. He began his NBA career in 1983 at age 27, joining the Utah Jazz as executive vice president.
A year later, he was promoted to president, becoming the youngest chief executive in the NBA.
Under Checketts, the Jazz drafted All-Stars John Stockton in 1984 and Karl Malone in 1985, and won Midwest Division titles in the 1983-84 and 1988-89 seasons.
"He built the franchise . . . " Evans said. "His track record speaks for itself. He was very successful with the Utah Jazz. He took a franchise that was at the bottom of the barrel and made it into one of the best in the league.
"I have a high regard for what he did for the Jazz when the franchise moved from New Orleans. I think he can do the same for us.
"I have been evaluating the situation for weeks. I came to the conclusion that a change had to be made. I came to the conclusion that a change should be made after the trading deadline and before the draft (in June)."
Under Bianchi's tenure, the Knicks were 161-142, but had declined markedly the past two seasons.
after finishing 52-30 in 1988-89 under coach Rich Pitino.
Pitino left after that season to go to Kentucky after well-publicized differences with Bianchi.