“I love the Knicks, and I love Charles Oakley,” Van Gundy said during Wednesday’s Knicks-Oklahoma City Thunder telecast, per Newsday’s Al Iannazzone. “Charles, with all of his greatness, helped me immeasurably. So I’m glad that it seems that it’s heading toward a positive resolution.”
“Hopefully one day very soon it’s ‘Charles Oakley Day.’ I do think his number should be retired. The longevity and his accomplishments warrant it. But more so that he understands exactly what he meant to the organization and the city.”
Oakley has had a tumultuous relationship with the franchise since owner/chairman James Dolan came into the picture, some even say sour and conflictive. The tug-of-war came to a head last Wednesday, when Oakley was ejected from a home game and arrested, reportedly per orders of Dolan.
The incident left an impugning image of the Knicks franchise and the way it’s run, as Dolan went on ESPN Radio days later to confirm his ban from Madison Square Garden — ban which he dropped Tuesday night while issuing an apology to Oakley and fans after a failed PR stunt of calling former players to sit courtside with him.
“I’m thankful that the Knicks opened the door when he is ready that he can come back,” Van Gundy added. “When he’s ready I think it will be something really, really positive.
“I think the fans will love it. I think the Knicks organization will be so glad that they did, and Charles will be honored that they have taken that step to honor. I’m just hopeful that it keeps going in a positive direction.”
Oakley insists he wants Dolan and the Knicks to apologize for the wounding remarks they made about his persona — including his portrayal as an angry black man and an alcoholic. He also confirmed he won’t attend a game anytime soon, thing he relayed to Dolan during a conference call that included league commissioner Adam Silver and Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan.
Charles Oakley played 727 regular-season games during his 10 seasons in a Knicks uniform, averaging 10.4 points and 10 rebounds. To this day, he remains one of the most beloved players in Knicks history because of his rugged competitive spirit and fan appreciation.