Before he was moving and grooving as Clyde, Walt Frazier, the Hall of Famer, sartorial showman and MSG Network’s New York Knicks analyst and word wizard, was just a precocious neophyte “mesmerized” by his first trip to Manhattan, where he led his Southern Illinois University Salukis against Marquette in the 1967 NIT championship at the old Garden.
MSG Network on June 14 screened clips from “Before He Was Clyde,” a new episode of its Emmy-winning MSG’s Vault, at Clyde Frazier’s Wine and Dine restaurant in Manhattan, where tale was told of his national hoops coming out party and the recovery of a video long thought to have vanished.
A spokesman said MSG put on a successful full court press of sorts to see if any video of the game, which took place on March 18, 1967 and was televised by WSIU, a PBS affiliate in Carbondale, Ill., still existed. “It showed up about three months ago,” said MSG’s Vault host Al Trautwig. “They found it in closet.”
Indeed, not only was the original video housed on two-inch quad tape in pristine condition, it was in color. Play-by-play man Tom Kelly had the call, with a laconic Frank Gifford serving as the analyst and the postgame interviewer with the game’s MVP. Frazier, who discusses growing up in segregated in Atlanta before deciding to attend a “northern” school, said his 21-point, 11-rebound performance in Southern Illinois’ come-from-behind win “unequivocally” led to the Knicks drafting him a few weeks later. For the record, Frazier says a Saluki is an Egyptian hunting dog. The installment will premiere June 23 at 9 p.m. on MSG.
During a Q&A, Frazier demurred when asked for his prediction for eviction in the NBA Finals: “I thought it would be the [San Antonio] Spurs.”
Clyde was more effusive when subsequently queried about whether the restaurant was turning and earning and if he would be given up vacation time in the islands this summer. “It’s doing well. We’re getting good reviews and people are enjoying the food. I’m going to take a couple of weeks in July, but people expect me to be here, meeting and greeting. It’s what I do at the Garden or walking around the city.”
To this I can attest. Several weeks ago, the family celebrated my birthday stylishly at Clyde’s Wine and Dine (try the “cheese steak” ribeye and crispy catfish with ginger and scallion sauce). Frazier spent about five minutes at our table, taking photos, signing some black-and-white photos, talking about Jeremy Lin and “Bird Rules,” and how his more provocative wardrobe wearing is usually on display during the winter months.
Those visiting the West Side eatery will find bigger-than-life wall murals of the man and ceiling panels reflective of some of his notable clothing choices: cow, tiger and leopard prints. There’s an enclosed room to shoot baskets and changing images showing Clyde driving past Don Chaney, coming off a pick set by Phil Jackson, wrapping a pass underneath the late, great Wilt Chamberlain and being checked by Don Nelson (most unlikely).
As the host might say: Take a peek, it’s sleek and neat place to eat.