Van Gundy surpassed Riley to become the third-winningest coach in Knicks history as Marcus Camby scored a season-high 27 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to help New York outlast Boston 95-88 Thursday night.
"Everybody knows how I feel about coach Riley. I think he's the best coach in team sports history," Van Gundy said. "I'm honored to coach here in New York, I like the guys on the team and love the guys I work for in Scott (Layden) and Dave Checketts and I feel very fortunate that I'm here."
In his sixth season as head coach, Van Gundy still trails Joe Lapchick (326) and Red Holzman (613) for career coaching victories in New York. He has a career winning percentage of .596 (224-152).
"Sometimes I'm disappointed in myself when I can't get them to play at the level they need to play at," Van Gundy said. "So that's sometimes the frustrating part of coaching."
That was the case in this game as the Knicks, despite controlling things through the first three quarters and leading by as many as 16, found themselves leading by just one point after Antoine Walker hit two free throws with 5:36 left.
Pierce missed a tough shot inside and the Knicks pushed the ball upcourt to Latrell Sprewell for a jumper. A bad pass by Eric Williams led to a fast-break layup by Sprewell for a nine-point lead with 2:59 left.
The Celtics pulled back within five an had a chance to get within three after forcing a 24-second violation, but Randy Brown missed two free throws with 16.4 seconds left to end their last hope.
"We missed some timely free throws," Walker said. "It was a tough loss."
Johnson added 21 points, Kurt Thomas had 16 and Sprewell 13 for the Knicks, who won their third straight. Camby reached double figures in rebounds for the eighth consecutive game.
"With Marcus, the stats are unbelievable. The numbers are really unbelievable numbers," Van Gundy said. "What I think you are seeing is a player who has improved consistently from the first day he has been here and has made a major jump this year."
Paul Pierce had 23 points and Eric Williams 21 for the Celtics, who lost their fifth consecutive road game and dropped to 13-11 since Jim O'Brien replaced Rick Pitino as head coach.
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