Monday, August 26, 2013

Dean Meminger, Knicks Guard

Dean Meminger, Who Helped Knicks to a Title, Dies at 65

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Dean Meminger, a speedy guard and tenacious defender who honed his basketball style in Harlem playgrounds and went on to play for the Knicks’ 1973 N.B.A. title team, was pronounced dead on Friday in a hotel room in Upper Manhattan. He was 65.
John Sotomayor/The New York Times
Dean Meminger scoring for the Knicks in a game in 1973.
The police said that staff members at the Casablanca Hotel, on West 145th Street, discovered Meminger unconscious in his room and that emergency medical personnel pronounced him dead. The cause was under investigation, but the police said there were no signs of trauma.
Meminger had long battled an addiction to cocaine and had acknowledged using drugs as far back as his N.B.A. days, when he was among a glamorous cast of Knicks in the franchise’s glory years. In 2009, he was critically injured in a four-alarm fire in his room in a building in the Bronx.
“They call him Dean the Dream, and he is all of that and more,” Coach Lou Carnesecca said after his St. John’s team was beaten by the Marquette squad led by Meminger in the final of the 1970 National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Carnesecca had followed Meminger since he was recruited by Rice High School of Manhattan out of a grammar school basketball tournament.
Al McGuire, Meminger’s coach at Marquette, once said he was “quicker than 11:15 Mass at a seaside resort.”
Meminger, the Knicks’ first-round pick in the 1971 N.B.A. draft, joined a brilliant backcourt led by Walt Frazier, Dick Barnett and Earl Monroe. At 6 feet 1 inch and 175 pounds, he may have seemed overmatched, and he was often a backup. But he was a whirlwind dribbling upcourt, a superb defensive player and a clever ball handler with fine court sense.
His most memorable moments came in Game 7 of the 1973 Eastern Conference finals, when he replaced Monroe in the second quarter, frustrated the hot-shooting Boston Celtics guard Jo Jo White and scored 13 points. After knocking the Celtics out of the playoffs, the Knicks beat the Los Angeles Lakers for the title.
“Dean went out and shut Jo Jo down, and we won that game,” said Phil Jackson, the former Knicks forward and Bulls and Lakers coach. “It was a signature performance in our history.”
Meminger joined other members of the 1973 Knicks team for a ceremony at the Garden on April 5. “There was no one prouder than Dean to be back on the court with his teammates,” Glen Grunwald, the Knicks’ general manager, said in a statement.
A native of Walterboro, S.C., Meminger came to Harlem with his family as a seventh-grader, then starred at Rice and became a dazzling figure at West 135th Street playground games.
“By the time I was 18, I was considered a ballplayer by the other dudes in the park,” he once said. “They were 23, 27, 35 years old, but I could participate. It’s very rugged out here. It’s more physical than the N.B.A.”
Meminger became an all-American guard at Marquette, averaging 18.8 points for three seasons, and was named the most valuable player of the 1970 N.I.T. After three seasons with the Knicks, he played for two with the Atlanta Hawks, then returned to the Knicks in the 1976-77 season. He had a career average of 6.1 points a game.
Meminger coached the New York Stars to the Women’s Professional Basketball League championship in 1980. Two years later he was named coach of the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association, but Jackson replaced him in midseason.
He was long plagued by drugs. In an interview with The New York Times in 2003, when he was coaching at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y., Meminger said his cocaine use had escalated after he left the N.B.A. He said he had received treatment for addiction but had several relapses, even while working as a drug counselor. But he said he had been drug free since June 2001.
“Once I left basketball I used to medicate that pain, ache, emptiness — at least that was my perception,” he said. “I isolated my family, alienated my kids.”
He told of fathering children with his high school and college sweethearts and said he had not helped raise his son, Dean Jr., a reporter for the cable television station NY1, or his daughter, Maisha Meminger, who received a graduate degree in social work.
“If I wanted to say somebody was my son, Dean is my son,” he said. “Understands what values are, a loyal, family guy. I don’t know where he learned it from.”
An Appraisal

Dean Meminger: The Dream Who Was a Delight to Coach

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What Willis Reed liked to call “Dean’s game” was remarkable not only because the Knicks handed the Celtics their first Game 7 playoff defeat on their home floor. It was also because the great Earl Monroe never got off the bench after Dean Meminger replaced him at the start of the second quarter.
On that date, April 29, 1973, Monroe took a seat and never so much as frowned while watching Meminger ignite the Knicks in a 94-78 victory that pushed them into the N.B.A. finals. Soon after, they won their second and last league title, in five games over the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Dean was my friend,” Monroe said, recalling his so-called benching a couple of years ago. “I was happy for him.”
Meminger was more than Monroe’s friend. He was the teammate Monroe first connected with when he joined the Knicks in 1971 from the enemy Baltimore Bullets.
Meminger, a first-round draft pick from Marquette, noticed Monroe’s uncertainty about where on the Knicks bench to sit before his first game at Madison Square Garden. He made eye contact and gestured for Monroe to sit next to him. The friendship lasted more than 40 years — until Meminger’s troubled life ended Friday when he was found dead at 65 in a New York hotel room.
Meminger’s struggles with drugs and related hardships began during a six-year career N.B.A. career that ended in 1977. A product of Rice High School in Harlem, he was only 6 feet tall, and his long arms and legs made his upper torso look too small for the rest of his body. There was also nothing very artistic about his jump shot, and he often dribbled the ball too high.
But Dean the Dream, as he was known, was a coach’s delight, a defense-minded hustler with impeccable timing and the uncanny ability to maneuver himself into space between much larger men in the paint.
Knicks Coach Red Holzman inserted him into Game 7 to harass the Celtics’ scoring guard, Jo Jo White. With John Havlicek playing with a dislocated right shoulder, Holzman figured that the Celtics would try to maximize White’s jump shooting with perimeter screens. Meminger, he knew, was better at moving laterally than Monroe.
But Meminger did more than limit White to 21 points (10-for-21 shooting from the floor). He was everywhere as the Knicks took control in the second and third quarters, finishing with 13 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
“At that point, even I said, ‘What the heck is this?’ ” Meminger told me in an interview, referring to Holzman’s leaving him in.
Beyond friendship, Monroe’s comfort with Holzman’s decision spoke to a larger generational issue. These days, a superstar’s benching would be developing news as it was happening — with television close-ups, a buzz on Twitter and a multitude of commiserating or angry texts waiting for the player in the locker room on his smartphone.
Newspaper reports on the Knicks’ victory highlighted Meminger’s role but took no issue with Monroe’s sitting out the last three quarters.
In my interview with Meminger, he laughingly recalled that he and Monroe had “hung out all night before that game,” which was played on a Sunday afternoon. “But,” he added, “I won’t give you the gory details.”
Monroe acknowledged that he had done his share of partying with Meminger. “But then you grow up,” he said.
Meminger, sadly, could manage only spells of sobriety after his years as a player. Monroe remained loyal, however. He was godfather to Meminger’s daughter and attended her wedding in 2009. He and his wife, Marita, were never far away when Meminger reached out.
But Monroe has had his own mounting health problems in recent years. Forty years have passed since “Dean’s game.” Meminger and Monroe celebrated it with the others in April at the Garden, one last time.

Dean Peter Meminger (May 13, 1948 – August 23, 2013) was an American basketball player and coach.

Early life and playing career[edit source | editbeta]

Meminger was born in Walterboro, South Carolina, and starred at Rice High School in New York City.[1]
He attended Marquette University, where he played for coach Al McGuire. He helped Marquette win the 1970 National Invitational Tournament. Marquette's 1970 team was ranked 8th in the country at the time and was invited to the NCAA tournament, which it turned down, for a better NIT bid. The NCAA was so incensed by Marquette, it instituted a rule which forced an NCAA Division I team to accept an NCAA bid over an NIT bid. A subsequent antitrust case brought by the NIT against the NCAA over this issue was later settled out of court. Meminger was also the MVP of the 1970 National Invitation Tournament, in which Marquette defeated St. John's 65-53 in the title game. Meminger was drafted in the first round (number 16 overall) of the 1971 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks, with whom he played from 1971 to 1974 and 1976-1977.[2] Meminger played for the Atlanta Hawks from 1974 to 1976.[3]

Coaching career[edit source | editbeta]

Meminger was head coach of the New York Stars in the Women's Professional Basketball League (abbreviated WBL), which played three seasons from the fall of 1978 to the spring of 1981.[4][5]Meminger, with rookie trainer Rick Capistran at his side, guided the Stars to the league championship during the 1979-80 season and was named the league's coach of the year. The team's great success, however, was not enough to save the Stars, which lost so much money the team folded without being able to repeat as champions.[4] Meminger was coaxed to head west, leaving Capistran behind, when he signed up to coach the San Francisco Pioneers in what would be the league's final season.
Among the players Meminger coached to a championship were twins Faye and Kaye Young, fresh out of North Carolina State University. Kaye was married to former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher.[6] Kaye Cowher died of skin cancer at age 54 on July 23, 2010.
In 1982 Meminger was hired to coach the Albany Patroons in the Continental Basketball Association. He was dismissed for his combative style with his players and replaced by his former Knicks teammate and friend Phil Jackson. Meminger convinced Jackson to let him try out for the team but he was unable to resurrect his career on the court.[4]
Meminger coached the USBL's Long Island Knights in 1987, and in later years, spent some time coaching at Manhattanville College in New York.[7]

Personal[edit source | editbeta]

Meminger's son goes by the same name and is a news reporter and anchor for NY1 News.[8]

Fire incident[edit source | editbeta]

On November 22, 2009, Meminger was rescued from a fire in the Bronx, NYC. Suffering from smoke inhalation, he was admitted to the burn unit of Jacobi Medical Center.[9] Meminger recovered and would remain active in local basketball events. He and trainer Rick Capistran reconnected after 30 years when Capistran tracked his old coach down after reading about Meminger's brush with death in the '09 fire.

Death[edit source | editbeta]

Meminger was found dead at the Casablanca Hotel in Harlem on August 23, 2013.[10]

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