Roughly 2,000 Knicks fans will be present in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night for the first time in 352 days since the COVID-19 pandemic closed last March, and an emotional Anthony Donahue will be among them.
Donahue, a season-ticket holder for nearly 20 years and a hardcore Knicks fan since he was in fourth grade in 1994, suffered a brain cancer loss in August to his 21-year-old sister, Jianna Gregoire.
“It has been a long 11 months. For me personally it has been a long year and a half, ”Donahue, 37, told The Post on Monday. “Last year during the entire season, this was the first year of my life, where I didn’t care if Nux won or lost. I was still going to every game, and going to the garden was such a helpful system. Walking in that building on Tuesday night is very emotional.
“I have been playing in almost every home for the last 20 years, and I am going to the last 26 games. I really don’t know what to do. But I’m excited to be there and see this team live, after all. It is my favorite place in the world, so it will be very emotional. “
The 37-year-old Donahue will participate in Tuesday’s game with Stephen Curry and close friend Elgin Swift with the Warriors. The 46-year-old Manhattan resident first met Donahue, who donated items and services for a fundraiser auction on behalf of Jianna in 2011.
“He was a big part of the Nucks,” Donahue said of Jianna. “When she started brain cancer at the age of 12, she was all over the world. I brought him up like a parent and took him to the Knicks game since the age of 4. Everyone watched him grow up. “
Swift was fired from a job with Audi last March, and now works as a wholesale director at a tech start-up called Rodo, an online car selling and leasing app.
“Oh man, it’s been a terrible year, sitting in the house every day, and even when I come into the office,” Swift said. “I work across the street from the garden at 1 Penn Plaza. I am watching it now. I am very excited to go back, especially with Anthony. The fact that the team is actually enjoyable to watch again makes it even better. “
Both Donahue and Swift are confident that the Knicks, 15–16 led by first-year coach Tom Thibodo, are the type of hardworking, defense-oriented team that New York fans have already embraced.
“I bleed orange and blue. I am lying if I said that it is not difficult for most of the last 20 years. But there is nothing like roaming the garden when the team is competitive.
“You can look forward to the game again. It’s’ all right, the Knights play tonight, I’m locked inside. Don’t bother me, ” said Swift, who called her stunning dates for the “Michael Ray Richardson days” in the early 1980s. “It has actually been one of the more pleasant surprises of 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 is clearly a case of being a good coach. I think this is clearly where you see someone who knows how to coach and how he wants players to play and play the way he wants to play. I think that as a New Yorker we admire the effort, and that is how we define if we like you or fall behind you. I think that’s part of who they are and who’s coaching [Thiibodeau] Has inspired them. “
Due to COVID-19 requiring socially distant fans in the lower and upper bowls, friends will be seated on Tuesday nights in Section 212, not for their regular seats near the court.
On this night, however, the location does not matter. They will return to the Knicks’ first home game building against Detroit since March 8 of last year.
“I think we’re headed in the right direction, after all,” said Donahue, a Bronx native who hosted a Knicks-based show for SNY. “Over the years, we have tried to take shortcuts and drive us crazy. But we are doing it the right way, after all.
“I have said many times in the last 20 years, if you make a product that works hard and competes, these fans will be completely left behind. I am really excited about this team and the way it plays. You will have old school signs with ‘D’ and ‘Fence’. Along the way this team plays D, you will get “defense” spells during the left line.
“We know it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not a championship team yet, but it’s a team that the Knicks fans have been waiting for a long time. It’s finally a team that we can really get behind And certainly it would be nice to be a part of it again within the arena. “