I know his departure took place many years ago and nobody back then ever foresaw Pat Riley becoming one of the best general managers in the history of the NBA, but was Riley's departure from the Knicks the most detrimental blow to an NBA franchise?
Just look at how Riley's tenure in Miami contributed to the Knicks' failure to win a championship over the past 15 years. In the 1996-97 season the Knicks had a team that was built to win an NBA championship but failed that season to advance past the second round of the playoffs because Riley had his players get into a brawl with the Knicks.
In the 1998-99 season Allan Houston had that game winning shot against the Heat. Many people believe that had Houston not made that shot he would have never received that 100 million dollar contract that put the Knicks in salary cap prison throughout the Layden/Isiah years.
And now in this current day we have to deal with a super dream team, that was assembled by Riley, that will coast along to an NBA dynasty over the next 5 or 6 years. The Knicks probably have the most talented team they've had in more than a decade, but what good will it amount to if they might lose in the playoffs every season to a team that has 2 of the greatest players to ever play the game of basketball plus an all star in their frontcourt? Unless Jeremy Lin develops into a top 5 PG or Amar'e Stoudemire learns how to play some defense and some how becomes nearly the player he used to be on the offensive end of the court, do you see the Knicks winning an NBA championship in the next 10 years?
This all could have been avoided had the Knicks' franchise allowed Pat Riley to take control of the front office while he was still here. I wasn't bitter when Riley took his talents to South Beach but it seems like it was just another case of the bad luck that has been haunting the Knicks over the past 39 years.