Dave DeBusschere, who was a key member of two New York championship teams during the 1970s and then saw the Knicks' fortunes fall in the 1980s, was fired Friday as general manager of the team and replaced by Scotty Stirling.
Jack Krumpe, president of Madison Square Garden Corp., said he made the decision to replace DeBusschere three weeks ago and his No. 1 choice for the job was Stirling, who quit his job as vice president in charge of operations for the National Basketball Assn.
"I decided that we needed fresh leadership at the operating level," Krumpe said. "The decision was made with a look to the future. Dave did yeoman work in his three years as general manager, and I'm not looking to blame him. But a change was needed to bring freshness to the organization."
The Knicks (11-22), who took the eventual-champion Boston Celtics to seven games in the 1984 Eastern Conference playoffs, fell to 24-58 and missed the playoffs last season. A record number of games missed because of injuries and illness, primarily by scoring champion Bernard King and center Bill Cartwright, have contributed to the downfall.
DeBusschere has been criticized for not making any trades this season, for signing Cartwright to a six-year, $5-million contract after he missed all of last season and just before he was reinjured in training camp this season, for his handling of negotiations leading to the signing of Patrick Ewing and for inaccessibility to the media.
"In my judgment, a change was needed, but there was no specific event that brought about the decision," Krumpe said. "It was a combination of things. Injuries notwithstanding, this season has been a disappointment."
Krumpe said DeBusschere was "stunned" when he was informed of the firing Friday. DeBusschere was not available for comment.
"He is a very classy guy, and that made it more difficult to take this step," Krumpe said.
Krumpe said Stirling, a former executive for the Golden State Warriors of the NBA, the Oakland Oaks of the American Basketball Assn. and the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League, would have "full operating responsibility and will report directly to me."
Stirling said his first step as general manager would be to evaluate all aspects of the Knicks' operation, including players and coaches.
But he ruled out a trade of the team's No. 1 draft choice in 1986 and said Coach Hubie Brown would at least finish the season.