Although nobody is talking for the record in New York, it seems certain that this is Red Holzman's last season as coach of the Knicks. After two terms in New York totaling 13 years, he apparently will be the scapegoat for this most disappointing season.
The Knicks won 50 games last season, and with a young nucleus centering around 7-foot Bill Cartwright and the league's most talented back court combination, Michael Ray Richardson and Ray Williams, continued improvement was expected.
Holzman's first mistake was insisting on getting rid of Williams, who now is starring with the New Jersey Nets. It also was at the coach's insistence that the Knicks gave up a first-round draft choice for 32-year-old Randy Smith and traded promising Mike Woodson for Mike Newlin, 31. Neither of the aging guards produced as Holzman expected, so the team had to buy another veteran guard, Paul Westphal.
"Out of control" is the most frequently used description of the way the Knicks (29-39) have played this season. It seems extremely unlikely that they will make the playoffs, and attendance has plunged at Madison Square Garden.
Dave Gavitt, athletic director at Providence College and commissioner of the highly successful Big East Conference, has been mentioned as a possible successor to Holzman, 61, but he refuses to comment on it. Holzman's contract calls for him to coach one more season, then serve as general manager for three years. Sources say Holzman will not have either job next year.
Center Darryl Dawkins' latest workout with Philadelphia hardly was encouraging, and there's a good possibility he won't be able to help the 76ers in the playoffs. The 76ers have won 21 of 28 games since Dawkins fractured his leg, but his presence will be missed in postseason play . . . Elvin Hayes and Coach Del Harris of Houston exchanged angry words at halftime recently as the Rockets lost their fourth straight at home. Hayes, however, has been playing very well lately, averaging 20 points and nine rebounds a game.
Dan Issel recently made 63 consecutive free throws, second-longest streak in NBA history behind Calvin Murphy's record 78 made last year . . . The coaches have recommended the all-star coach be selected on a rotating basis, with the coach of the host team an automatic choice. Currently, the honor goes to the coach of the team with the best record.
QUIZ: Kevin Grevey has made two four-point plays this season. Name the other players who have two to their credit since the rule began three years ago. (Answer below) . . . The Nets, tied with the Bullets for third place in the Atlantic Division, have two games left with both Boston and Philadelphia. The Bullets played the Eastern powers only once each, but have two games remaining with Milwaukee.
Mitch Kupchak's knee rehabilition is taking much longer than he expected and he's telling friends that he doesn't expect to be ready for the Lakers' playoff games . . . Chuck Daly, fired after 91 days as Cleveland's coach, will be paid in full for this season and has reached a cash settlement for the next two years that he will receive in one payment next January.
Sly Williams had a quite a week. The New York forward was reinstated last Thursday after a four-day suspension for missing a game and two doctor's appointments. Then he missed practice Friday. He showed up for Saturday's game with Atlanta, but wasn't aware the team was chartering a flight to Washington right after the game and had to send his brother to his Connecticut home for clothes. Then Sunday he missed the team bus to Capital Centre . . . Denver's David Thompson, suspended for four days in late December for "excess violations of team rules," recently missed a flight home from Los Angeles and a workout the day of a game, but Coach Doug Moe took no action.
Paul Westphal's contract gives the Knicks the option of re-signing him by June 30 for $350,000 a year. If they don't, they will give up their right of first refusal and Westphal will be free to negotiate with any team . . . A local merchant in Philadelphia gives 16 steaks for every three-pointer a 76er makes, so Andrew Toney picked up 64 Sunday after making four in the final quarter against Boston.
QUIZ ANSWER: Brian Winters of Milwaukee had one in the 1979-80 season, the first year of the NBA three-pointer, and one this season . . . Quote of the week is from Houston Coach Del Harris: "People have always said, 'As Moses Malone goes, so goes the Rockets.' Well, I wish that were true because we would have finished 75-7 last season."