: Lenny Wilkens was wrapping up his introductory news conference Thursday when a grinning Stephon Marbury strode over to the dais.
"Here comes another Brooklyn guy,'' the New York Knicks' new coach said before receiving a big hug from the team's point guard.
Marbury delivered the warmest embrace to Wilkens as the Knicks welcomed aboard another of the best playmakers ever to come out of New York. First, new team president Isiah Thomas traded for an All-Star (Marbury), then he hired a Hall of Famer (Wilkens).
Wilkens ran a brief practice in the afternoon, preparing the revamped Knicks to play the Seattle SuperSonics on Friday night.
"The opportunity to come back to New York is just tremendous. It's not anything that I thought could happen,'' said Wilkens, who had been out of work since being fired by the Toronto Raptors at the end of last season.
New York is 2 1/2 games behind Philadelphia for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
"We've got our work cut out for us, but I'm an optimist,'' Wilkens said. "It's still early enough. We can make the playoffs.''
He plans to prod the Knicks to refocus on defense and hopes to tweak their offense -- all while growing accustomed to a roster that, until Thursday, he had only seen a handful of times on television.
Wilkens said he welcomes input from Thomas.
"I feel like it's my team right now -- or I should say Stephon's team,'' Wilkens said.
Wilkens, owner of the most coaching victories and losses in NBA history, will have to make adjustments on the fly.
Several Toronto players criticized Wilkens' coaching methods after he was fired in April. Vince Carter said Wilkens doesn't understand today's game.
Wilkens said he was surprised by Carter's comments and defended his tenure in Toronto, citing the team's numerous injuries during his three seasons there.
"I don't pay it any mind because many players will say things to distract from themselves,'' Wilkens said.
After being fired, Wilkens spent time at home in Seattle playing golf and tennis.
"I never gave much thought to whether my coaching days were over or not. When I left I said I still had a lot of coaching left in me,'' Wilkens said. "When the season started, I started missing it. And I started to watch a lot of games. And when this opportunity came, I jumped at it.''
"I think he's the perfect person to lead us in this environment of change,'' said James Dolan, chairman of Cablevision, the Knicks' corporate owner.
Wilkens said the Knicks first contacted him Wednesday, meaning his deal was cut in a matter of hours.
The new coach put the Knicks through a brief workout with no scrimmaging, addressing the players and telling them they will have to earn his respect -- and he will have to earn theirs.
"I think he's going to be a guy who's pretty similar to Don in personality,'' shooting guard Allan Houston said. "He's going to be demanding, and I think he's going to allow us to be who we are and get better at that.''