Don Nelson's coaching tenure with the Knicks was short-lived, lasting not even one season when he was fired in March of 1996 despite a 34-25 record.
He wanted to trade Patrick Ewing.
The former NBA head coach confirmed that this was true in an HBO Real Sports interview with Bryant Gumbel this week, explaining that he wanted to trade Ewing so the team could pursue Shaquille O'Neal.
"Yes, it cost me my job," Nelson said. "I said, 'You need to trade Patrick Ewing and you need to trade him right away. There's a guy by the name of Shaquille O'Neal who's available, we can jump in there and beat the Lakers out and we should do it.'
"It got back to Ewing and I was done. I was toast."
Ewing was 33 years old that season while O'Neal had established himself as one of the rising young stars in the league at age 23, which Nelson thought was more attractive for the long-run.
"I didn't think [Ewing] had very much left in the tank," Nelson said. "He was one-dimensional, he was interested in rebounds and points. I thought that we could do better."
Nelson said that James Dolan listened when he made the suggestion, but he was ultimately fired a month later.
Nelson is positive it got back to Ewing, although the Knicks legend never confronted the coach about it.
"You could tell something was different," Nelson said. "Totally different. We had to split up after that."
Ewing, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008, was an All-Star for the final time the next season and helped the Knicks go on an NBA Finals run in 1999, although he was injured and did not play in the Finals -- where they were swept four games by the Spurs.
O'Neal also went on to have a Hall of Fame career but led the Lakers to three NBA Finals titles and won another with the Miami Heat in 2006.