New York Knicks coach unexpectedly resigns amid team's improved play

Sunday, December 9th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PURCHASE, N.Y. (AP) _ New York Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy resigned unexpectedly Saturday, just as the team was playing its best basketball of the season after a slow start.

``I didn't feel my focus was at its best,'' Van Gundy said Saturday at the Knicks' practice facility. ``I just think it's time to step back and let the team move on.''

He told the team of his decision at their morning shootaround.

``He said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He's a little burned out,'' guard Howard Eisley said.

Van Gundy took the Knicks to the playoffs in each of his first six seasons, including a trip to the 1999 NBA Finals and two trips to the Eastern Conference finals.

The team hadn't chosen a head or interim coach, team spokesman Jonathan Supranowitz said.

Van Gundy leaves as the third-winningest coach in team history with a record of 248-172, including 10-9 this season, his seventh.

Van Gundy was deeply affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and at times seemed more somber than he had in the past.

Farrell Lynch, Van Gundy's college teammate and roommate, worked for the bond trading firm Cantor Fitzgerald and was killed in the attack. Van Gundy was also close to Rick Pitino's brother-in-law, Bill Minardi, who also died.

``I think he has a lot of things going on with his family and with the World Trade incident,'' forward Kurt Thomas said. ``There were a lot of things piled on that he felt he had to walk away from.''