Ex-Knicks Player Dean Meminger Critical After Fire, Which May Have Been Started By Crack Pipe

NY Daily News - November 24, 2009

by Jonathan Lemire and Kerry Burke

Former Knicks star Dean (The Dream) Meminger was in critical condition Monday after a Bronx fire that investigators suspect may have been sparked by a crack pipe, FDNY sources said.

Meminger, whose son is a reporter for New York 1, was recovering in the burn unit at Jacobi Medical Center yesterday after suffering significant smoke inhalation in Sunday night's four-alarm fire.

The beloved member of the Knicks, two 1970s world championship teams was living in an SRO on Findlay Ave. in Claremont and was found unconscious near his bed after the fire ignited at 9:40 p.m., officials said.

Several crack pipes that appear to have been recently used were found inside Meminger's room and in the hallway of the small dilapidated building, according to FDNY sources.

Fire marshals are exploring whether the drug paraphernalia may have sparked the blaze, the sources said.

It was not immediately clear whether the pipes belonged to Meminger, 62. The former NCAA All-American has frequently spoken publicly about his long battle with substance abuse.

"I haven't spoken to investigators," said his son, NY1 reporter Dean Meminger Jr., when asked if the pipe belonged to his father. "I'm just concerned about his safety.

"We're praying and just hoping," he said about his dad. "We're asking New Yorkers, pray for him. He's a great New Yorker."

Firefighters rushed Meminger to the street and revived him, according to officials. He was initially taken to Lincoln Hospital before being moved to Jacobi.

A star at Harlem's Rice High School before moving on to Marquette University, Meminger was the Knicks' first-round pick in the 1971 NBA draft.

He spent four years with the Knicks and two with the Atlanta Hawks, and then bounced around in an assortment of jobs in the basketball world before spending the 2003 season as head coach at Manhattanville College.

His brother, Harry Sumter, said Meminger - who recently had worked odd jobs - acknowledged his long-standing cocaine problem and counseled teenagers not to abuse drugs.

NY1 released a statement sending thoughts and prayers to his family.

The fire ripped through four rowhouses and left 30 people homeless, according to officials. It took more than 200 firefighters longer than two hours to extinguish the blaze.