Harry Gallatin: The NBA’s Original Iron Man
By: Dennis D'Agostino
The Knicks’ latest honoree in the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame, Harry “The Horse” Gallatin was the NBA’s original “Iron Man” and a central figure of the New York squads that dominated the Eastern Division in the League’s early days. A legendary figure in Knicks history, the Basketball Hall of Famer played nine seasons as a Knick (1948-49 through 1956-57) and was a lasting symbol of tough, blue collar workmanship. His most enduring legacy is his streak of 610 consecutive games played, a Knicks record that has stood unchallenged for nearly 60 years.
A seven-time NBA All-Star and a two-time All-NBA selection, Gallatin was one of the NBA’s first great rebounders: He led the League in total rebounds (1,098; 15.3 rpg) in 1953-54, and still ranks fourth on Knicks’ all-time rebound list (5,935). He was a key member of the Knicks’ three straight Eastern Division championship teams under Hall of Fame coach Joe Lapchick (1951, 1952, 1953), a squad which captured the city’s imagination and laid the foundation for its current status as New York’s Team.
Gallatin’s ironman status and leadership qualities stamped him as a Knicks original in the club’s formative years.
“The thing I’m most proud of whenever people talk about consecutive streaks is this,” said Gallatin in 2002. “My mother isn’t alive now, but she probably could have told you that I didn’t miss a game or a practice in grade school, in junior high school, in high school. . .didn’t miss a game or a practice all the way through my basketball career, and that includes the Playoffs. So when I say my prayers, I thank God for the health that I’ve enjoyed. I don’t know of anybody else who hadn’t missed a practice or a game in their entire basketball career. I really feel proud about that.”
A product of Northeast Missouri State, Gallatin averaged 12.7 ppg and 9.7 rpg in nine Knicks seasons, finishing his NBA playing career with the Detroit Pistons in 1957-58. He later served as head coach for both the St. Louis Hawks and the Knicks, winning the NBA’s first-ever Coach of the Year award with St. Louis in 1963. In 1991, he became the first of the pioneer “Lapchick Knicks” to be enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and he has since been joined in Springfield by teammates Dick McGuire, Al McGuire and Sweetwater Clifton.
Gallatin, who turned 88 years old in April, enjoyed a long post-NBA career as athletic director at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He currently lives in Edwardsville, Ill., and joins fellow Hall of Fame Knicks Bill Bradley, Willis Reed (who he coached as a Knicks rookie), Walt Frazier, Patrick Ewing, Dave DeBusschere, Earl Monroe, Dick McGuire and coaches Red Holzman and Lapchick in the Garden’s Walk of Fame.