Roughly 2,000 Knicks followers shall be in attendance at Madison Sq. Backyard on Tuesday night for the primary time in 352 days because the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown started final March, and an emotional Anthony Donahue shall be amongst them.
Donahue, a season-ticket holder for practically 20 years and a hardcore Knicks fan since he was in fourth grade in 1994, suffered the lack of his 21-year-old sister Gianna Gregoire to mind cancer in August.
“It’s been a long 11 months. For me personally it’s been a long year and a half,” the 37-year-old Donahue instructed The Post on Monday. “Throughout the entire season final 12 months, it was one of many first years in my life where I didn’t even care if the Knicks gained or misplaced. I used to be nonetheless going to each recreation, and going to the Backyard was such a assist system. It’s going to be very emotional strolling in that constructing on Tuesday night.
“I’ve been at almost every home game for the last 20 years, and I’ve been going to games the last 26. I really don’t know what to expect. But I am excited about being there and watching this team live, finally. It’s my favorite place in the world, so it will be very emotional.”
Donahue will attend Tuesday’s recreation towards Stephen Curry and the Warriors with shut pal Elgin Swift. The 46-year-old Manhattan resident first met Donahue whereas donating items and services for a fundraiser public sale on Gianna’s behalf in 2011.
“She was such a big part of Knicks nation, too,” Donahue said of Gianna. “She had beaten brain cancer initially when she was 12, and she was my whole world. I raised her like a parent and took her to Knicks games since she was 4 years old. Everybody watched her grow up there.”
Swift was furloughed from his job with Audi final March, and he now works as a wholesale director at a tech start-up referred to as Rodo, an app for selling and leasing cars online.
“Oh man, it’s been a dreadful year, sitting in the house every day, and even when I come into the office,” Swift said. “I work right across the street from the Garden at 1 Penn Plaza. I’m looking at it right now. I’m very excited to be going back, especially with Anthony. Combined with the fact that the team actually is enjoyable to watch again, makes it even better.”
Each Donahue and Swift imagine the Knicks, 15-16 under first-year coach Tom Thibodeau, have been the type of hardworking, defense-oriented team New York followers have already got embraced.
“I bleed orange and blue. I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been a tough go for most of the last 20 years. But there’s nothing like walking into the Garden when the team is competitive,” Donahue said.
“You can look forward to the games again. It’s, ‘All right, the Knicks play tonight, I’m locked in. Don’t bother me,’ ” added Swift, who said his fandom dates again to “Micheal Ray Richardson days” within the early Eighties. “It’s actually been one of many more nice surprises in my years of being a fan.
“The expectations were not high. I thought they would be better, but they have played well above their heads. It’s obviously a case of having a good coach, too. I think this is clearly where you look at someone who knows how to coach and how he wants to coach and getting the players to play the way he wants them to play. I think as New Yorkers we tend to admire effort, and that’s how we define if we like you or get behind you. I think that’s part of who they are and the coaching that [Thibodeau] has instilled in them.”
The chums shall be seated in Section 212 Tuesday night, not their regular seats nearer to the court, as a result of want for followers to be socially distanced all through the lower and upper bowls on account of COVID-19.
On this night, nonetheless, location doesn’t matter. They are going to be again within the constructing, the Knicks’ first home recreation with followers since March 8 of final 12 months towards Detroit.
“I think we are headed in the right direction, finally,” said Donahue, a Bronx native who used to host a Knicks-based present for SNY. “So many times over time, we’ve tried to take shortcuts, and make loopy trades. However we’re doing it the precise way, lastly.
“I’ve said so many times over the last 20 years, if you put out a product that plays hard and competes, these fans will be fully behind that. I’m really excited about this team and the way it plays. You’d have the old-school signs with the ‘D’ and the ‘Fence.’ You’d have “defense” chants through the layup line with the way this team performs D.
“We know it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not a championship team yet, but this is a team Knicks fans have been waiting for, for a long time. It’s finally a team we can really get behind and it definitely will be nice to be a part of it again, inside the arena.”