Back in the days before the internet, I cannot tell you how thrilling it was to approach October, the start of the new NBA season, when the new Zander Hollander Complete Handbook of Pro Basketball would come out.
You’d keep checking in the Sports section of the bookstore — which for me was a Barnes and Nobles in Manhattan on 8th Street and Broadway — to see if it had arrived.
And then there it would be — a quick purchase and could not wait to start reading it on the subway back home to Brooklyn.
Zander Was On Point & Funny
It was more than a treat — the unique feature was the funny and accurate bios of each player that Hollander provided, which were part scouting report, part standup comedy, but always razor sharp and on the money. Zander pushed the envelope. This type of writing, on sports players, was not available anywhere.
Zander also provided statistics for each player, a scouting report on players just drafted, and predictions — a complete handbook.
Analysis of Zander’s Analysis
I’m providing here a sampling of the 1988 Handbook — the pages for the Knicks team — under Fair Use doctrine of Copyright law, and with perfect hindsight, will analyze Zander’s analysis. The book details the 1986-87 season, with the 1987-88 season about to begin.
The 1987-88 Knicks
The Knicks were coming off a horrid 24-58 campaign — Patrick Ewing‘s second season. Hubie Brown, who had coached Ewing as a rookie, was let go after a 4-12 start, and assistant Bob Hill was made coach. Hill went 20-46.
During the off season the Knicks hired Rick Pitino to be their coach. Pitino was a young phenom college coach who had just led Providence of the Big East into the NCAA playoffs and before 2 years at Providence had done a great job at Boston University for 5 seasons. Pitino was 35 years old.
The Knicks had just drafted Mark Jackson with the #18 overall pick in the June 1987 draft. With Pitino and Jackson leading the way, things were about to get good in NY.
Below we present this time machine — again under Fair Use doctrine of Copyright law — we provide a screen shot and provide our analysis of Zander’s analysis:
Bernard King graced the cover of the Knicks section. He had just missed two seasons with the knee surgery; before that he was a superstar, leading the NBA in scoring when he went down midway thru the 1984-85 season, going back to defend that shot against Kansas City on the break. He returned at the end of the disaster 1986-87 season and played 6 games.
Note above — Zander NAILED the drafting of Mark Jackson as a super important event. At that time nobody knew how good Jackson would be in the NBA. He seemed a tad slow for the NBA game. But he controlled tempo and was an exceptional passer who had just led St. Johns to the final 4.
Also note that Patrick Ewing was being gigged as not being as good a rebounder as everyone anticipated he’d be early in his career.
The first thing that Mark Jackson did as a rookie was announce that Patrick Ewing was the best center in the NBA and he was going to get him the ball. Even I as a Knick fan found that statement shocking — Ewing had not shown himself to be that good yet. But Jackson had played against Ewing at Georgetown, and Jackson did get Ewing the ball and Ewing gained confidence and became a BEAST. PS: Mark Jackson — who retired 2nd All Time in the NBA in assists and is currently 6th — should be in the Hall of Fame.
Zander does not hold back in criticism of Bill Cartwright (“averaged 17.5 points but did not care about any other aspect of the game”) or Bernard King (“Ego as large as the Empire State Building… Played in six games after sitting out two years with knee injury, then declared ‘I’m terrific’ and was looking for a new contract for over million a year'”.
Zander also ripped Ewing, “not exactly St Patrick. Ability to withstand pain has to be questioned… Hubie Brown was fired because he went to war with Patrick and lost… Moved by Brown to center and rebelled…. Overall play a disappointment considering his $30 Million contract…. May be too nice a guy. Needs to get angry on the court.” Wow. And it was true at the time; there were a lot of questions about Ewing his first two years before Mark Jackson arrived.
And then Zander nails it on Ewing: “Will be a monster one day.”
Gerald Wilkins was indeed the “most exciting player in the Garden”, but you learned that Gerald was a “big believer in positive thinking. Meditates before games.”
Kenny Walker: “The sky is falling” — that is prototypical Zander Hollander. Did not know that Kenny “was so depressed by end of season he wanted to be called ‘Twilight’ because he was stationed much of the time outside the shooting zone.” Another great Hollander line: “Highlight of the season was winning a harness race at Monticello Raceway.”
Louis Orr — who was great for Knicks: “Needs to go to another team for his own well being.” Funny, and on point.
Bob Thornton “May be the only California Angels fan east of the Rockies”?
Zander, on point as usual, included the famous Mark Jackson draft-night quote, “I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. I was sitting there clicking my heels, saying there’s no place like home.”