He was a local schoolboy legend who returned home after an out of town stay at the University Of Marquette, where he became an All-American who would lead his team to victory in the N.I.T., back when it was still important. The Knicks used him as their first guard off the bench to replace either “Clyde” or the “Pearl”.
He came along at just the right time. The team had won it all in ’70 and he was drafted in ’71. They drafted him with the expectation that he’d supply youth, speed and tenacious defense off the bench. He didn’t disappoint.
He only had to wait for one season before he tasted the champagne. Five of the NBA’s all-time top fifty players were on the roster and a sixth would soon join them. The coach was a future Hall Of Famer and the under appreciated Phil Jackson was a reserve as well. The team was loaded.
When he touched the floor, they scrapped their half court pattern game, took the shackles off “The Dream” and for a quarter at a time, they ran with reckless abandon and speed became the featured attraction. Lord, he could play.
I met Dean Meminger at the peak of the Knicks/Bulls rivalry in the early ’90s. I’d go to games, see him in the building and I was pleased to find that he was an easy going and friendly retired Knicks legend who loved to talk basketball. He was a supporting player on a team filled with stars and he handled it with humility and grace. But when he got on the floor for the ’73 Championship team, he shone as brightly as any of the others. Tonight, I learned that he passed away. He will always be thought of fondly by Knicks fans from their golden era, and in that way, “The Dream” will always live on.