Now that Derek Fisher is out in the Big Apple, we look at the 5 most likely candidates to become the next long term head coach of the New York Knicks.
BREAKING: Knicks fire Derek Fisher after leading NY to 40-96 record in 1st 2 seasons at the helm. (via ESPN sources) pic.twitter.com/EOa2pDH6Jl
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 8, 2016
The Knicks have promoted Kurt Rambis to serve as interim head coach, but will be looking to find a new, more permanent candidate as the season progresses.
Interim coach Kurt Rambis is 56-145 in 2.5 seasons as head coach, including stints with Lakers (24-13) and Minnesota (2009-11). #Knicks
— Kristian Winfield (@Krisplashed) February 8, 2016
Here are five candidates that could replace Fisher as head coach. The top 2 most likely, though, are:
1. Luke Walton
2. Brian Shaw
According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Golden State Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton and former Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw are the favorites to land the Knicks job.
Kurt Rambis is Knicks interim coach but league sources believe Brian Shaw and Luke Walton are top long-term replacement candidates
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) February 8, 2016
Walton in particular is a hot candidate, especially after leading the Warriors to a 39-4 record while Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery. While some may argue that Walton’s success came as a result of having the best player and roster in the NBA, one cannot discount the degree of difficulty it takes to lead a team to the best start in NBA history. Walton is a prime candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers, as well. Given his relationship with Phil Jackson, Walton figures to be a key player in the race.
Given the job he did with Golden State, and relationship with Phil, Luke Walton will figure prominently in Knicks' long-term search.
— Ken Berger (@KBergNBA) February 8, 2016
However, Walton looks determined to see out the season in Golden State.
ESPN sources say Luke Walton is determined to see out this season in Golden State and not entertain head coaching offers until the offseason
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) February 8, 2016
Shaw spent time as an assistant for the Lakers, Indiana Pacers, and the Nuggets, before eventually taking over for George Karl in Denver. Like Derek Fisher, he only lasted a year and a half in Denver, before being fired halfway through the 2014-15 season. Denver missed the playoffs in both seasons that Shaw featured as head coach.
Neither of these names are particularly sexy. While Shaw didn’t have the best roster to work with in Denver, he still struggled mightily. Walton is young and has a lot of upside as a head coach, and had perhaps the best dress rehearsal of all time with Golden State. However, there will almost certainly be doubts about his ability to thrive as a head coach without Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. Next up:
3. Tom Thibodeau
The fan favorite to take the job. Thibs, according to multiple sources, wants the Knicks job pretty badly.
Source close to Tom Thibodeau: "The #Knicks are the job he's always wanted. He would crawl to Madison Square Garden."
— Ian O'Connor (@Ian_OConnor) February 8, 2016
Thibodeau also is a big fan of Knicks star man Carmelo Anthony, which could help his case for getting hired.
Tom Thibodeau is a big, big fan of Carmelo Anthony's. Thought he had him in free agency. Loved him w/ USA Basketball. #Knicks
— Ian O'Connor (@Ian_OConnor) February 8, 2016
Thibodeau served as an assistant for the Knicks under Jeff van Gundy from 1996-2004. He also served as an assistant in Houston and Boston, before taking over as head coach of the Chicago Bulls. He tied an NBA record for most wins as a rookie head coach with 62 in 2011, a year where he also took home Coach of the Year honors. In 5 seasons as Chicago’s head coach, he went 255-139, making the playoffs in all five seasons. That run included two division titles, and two top seeds in the Eastern Conference.
Thibodeau is known as one of the best defensive minds in the NBA. According to ESPN, “Thibodeau’s defensive system is the pinnacle of team defensive strategy in the NBA.” Jeff van Gundy, however, hired Thibs for his innovative offensive sets and player development ability. As a no-nonsense head coach, he could lay down some effective regimentation for a young Knicks team, as well as improve them defensively.
4. Mark Jackson: The former Knicks point guard and Golden State Warriors coach was solid in Oakland. However, he works best with point guards, like Stephen Curry, and the Knicks don’t really have an elite point guard. He could work wonders for Jerian Grant, but do the Knicks really want to hire a head coach to help out their mid-first round pick?
5. Jeff van Gundy: Total long shot, but van Gundy was beloved and wildly successful for the Knicks. He appears, however, to be content working as an analyst for ESPN.