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Examining The Knicks’ Prospective Coaches

Brandon Dill-Associated Press

An oft-heard refrain around the league, the Knicks are looking for a new head coach, and here are a few potential candidates

Following another uninspiring finish for the New York Knicks, the front office, headed by the newly installed GM Scott Perry, has relieved Jeff Hornacek of head coaching duties. 

Compiling a 60-104 in his two seasons in New York, Hornacek was originally installed by ousted president Phil Jackson, and was tasked with instituting the triangle offense. Hornacek faltered in instituting the offense, as well as his own after Jackson’s departure, and the Knicks have decided to look to another coach to continue the rebuild in New York. 

Here’s a look at a few of the most likely candidates to stand on the sidelines for the orange and blue next season.


One of the more intriguing candidates for the Knicks next season was fired earlier in the season by the Memphis Grizzlies: David Fizdale. Fizdale has a reputation as a defensive coach, a byproduct of his season and a half with the ‘grit-and-grind’ Grizzlies. During his tenure, Memphis jumped from 19th in defensive rating (2015-16) to 7th last season. Though his record as a head coach stands at just 50-51, Fizdale squeezed the most he could out of a lopsided roster, even guiding the motley 2016-17 squad to a playoff berth and a much ballyhooed six-game first round series against the San Antonio Spurs. 

 

Fizdale seems to be popular around the league, which might be another selling point for the Knicks in free agency. Aside from the city itself and the young core that is still years away from serious contention, the Knicks need an attractive coach to put them over the top, as Knicks’ ownership is a decided negative for players. After Hornacek’s much-discussed spat with Joakim Noah and a separate incident with Kyle O’Quinn, New York is desperate for a ‘player’s coach,’ that can also deal with ownership and the media’s scrutiny. If reports hold true, Fizdale seems to be the frontrunner for the job as it currently stands.  

A potential unpopular though oft-discussed possibility is handing the coaching duties to former Golden State Warriors head coach (and former Knick) Mark Jackson. While some look to his fair coaching record of 121-109 in his three seasons with Golden State as proof of his success, Jackson left a divisive coaching legacy before fleeing to the broadcasting booth. Many Jackson detractors believe that the Warriors were able to ‘break out’ after Steve Kerr’s arrival, and team metrics support this to an extent. While the ascension of players like Steph Curry and Draymond Green affect these numbers, they are still worth mentioning; in 2013-14 under Jackson, GSW ranked 12th in offensive rating and 3rd defensively. The very next season under Kerr, the Warriors jumped to 2nd offensively and 1st defensively.  

While there are a number of reasons for the Warriors steps toward their dynastic run, it seems clear that Jackson was not part of the solution. Beyond statistical improvements, there have been several tales of Jackson’s difficult relationships with players and upper management. Jackson reportedly had a spat with the injury-prone center Andrew Bogut, as well as Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob asserting that, “he couldn’t get along with anyone in the organization,” at the time of his firing. In the pressure cooker that is the coach’s box of Madison Square Garden, a contentious personality like Jackson’s seems like a recipe for disaster.

Another name that has been bandied about was former Cleveland Cavaliers’ head coach David Blatt. One of the chief reasons for the interest is Blatt’s connection with Knicks’ president Steve Mills: they were teammates at Princeton 40 years ago. Blatt was teased before Hornacek was hired (with lobbying from Mills), so it seems likely that Blatt will be amongst the top candidates for the job. While he held an impressive 83-40 record with Cleveland, Blatt never did win LeBron James’ approval, which led to his premature exit. With the unusual circumstances of LeBron’s return to Cleveland, one could argue that Blatt has never truly had the opportunity to lead an NBA team of his own.


  Fresh off another championship with a Turkish EuroCup team, Blatt’s extensive international experience makes him an interesting fit at the helm, to facilitate the team’s relationship with cornerstones Frank Ntilikina and Kristaps Porzingis. If the Knicks were able to reach higher up in this year’s draft lottery, Luka Doncic would be a natural fit, and another international player for the Knicks’ NBA version of the ‘United Nations.’ Known as an innovative offensive coach in Europe, Blatt might be able to help Ntilikina and Porzingis reach their potentials by adapting some of their earlier overseas experiences to the NBA.  

There are a number of other names in the mix like Jerry Stackhouse and former Knicks’ head coaches Mike Woodson and Jeff Van Gundy. These names seem like long shots currently, with Van Gundy instead referring his friend and broadcast partner Mark Jackson. At the time, it is unclear whether or not JVG even intends to return to NBA coaching. Mike Woodson has declared his desire to “finish what he started” in New York, relying on his 109-79 record with the Knicks and evoking New York’s last exciting season in 2012-13. The Knicks’ interest in Woodson is unclear, though he remains an option if they strikeout on the top three choices, or as a lead assistant.   

Jerry Stackhouse is an interesting choice, as he has the benefit of being a recently retired player, and has demonstrated an aptitude for coaching with the G-League Raptors 905. Named D-League (before it was renamed) Coach of the Year in 2016-17, Stackhouse has enjoyed success thus far on the road to the NBA sidelines, leading the Raptors 905 to the 2017 D-League championship. Leading the G-League affiliate to the upper echelons of defense and offense, Stackhouse remains an intriguing selection if New York turns to a first-time NBA coach.  

While there are a few frontrunners in this coaching search, the quality the front office is looking for most is the ability to manage expectations and oversee player development as the Knicks make their march back toward respectability. Whoever can best assure the front office of the development of the young roster and assert a willingness to endure a patient rebuild will most likely win the position.

Edited by Joe Sparacio, Brian Kang, Dani Quintana.

SQuiz
How many different head coaches have the New York Knicks employed from 2000-2018?
Created 4/18/18
  1. Eight
  2. Ten
  3. Eleven
  4. Twelve

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