Whelan involved with Knicks' NBA title teams

Updated: January 4, 2004, 8:26 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Danny Whelan, the longtime trainer for the New York Knicks and the man who gave Walt Frazier the nickname "Clyde," died after a long illness. He was 84.

Whelan, who died Friday, was the Knicks' trainer from 1967-78 -- an 11-year tenure that included the franchise's only two NBA championships. He also was the trainer for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1960 when they won the World Series.

"He'll be missed. He was an integral part of our two championship teams here," said Knicks executive Willis Reed, whose dramatic return from an injured hip in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals helped spur the Knicks to the title.

"When I was trying to get ready for that game, he and I pretty much spent the whole day together. He was giving me whirlpool and ice and telling me all sorts of stories about baseball and stuff," Reed recalled Sunday. "I knew he was going to get me ready."

Whelan always wore an orange Knicks warmup jersey while sitting at the end of the bench, a wardrobe choice that became his trademark.

Reed recalled how the cigar-chomping, wisecracking Whalen handled several duties for the team, from booking airline reservations and hotels to being responsible for the luggage and equipment and treating injuries.

"One of the most important persons in the whole organization is the trainer," Reed said. "There are things you tell a trainer that you never tell anybody else."

Whelan gave Frazier, a future Hall of Fame guard, his nickname during his rookie season with the Knicks over his flamboyant wardrobe which seemed to come from the movie "Bonnie & Clyde."

Whelan grew up in San Francisco and spent two years in the Navy during World War II. He died Friday, one day shy of his 85th birthday. A funeral will be held Friday at Mary Manning Nursing Home in New York.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press