Just like you would expect, Phil Jackson has nothing but nice things to say about the new head coach of the New York Knicks, Jeff Hornacek.
“Jeff has a tremendous basketball acumen and possesses strong leadership skills,” Jackson said. “During his career as both a player and coach, he has demonstrated the ability to elevate the game.”
Hornacek becomes the fifth Knicks coach in the past six seasons and the second Jackson has hired since taking the helm in the latter stretch of the 2013-14 season. New York also interviewed Frank Vogel and David Blatt for the job, and interim coach Kurt Rambis was considered the front-runner to retain his job.
The Vertical first reported Hornacek and the Knicks agreed to a three-year deal. ESPN.com confirmed the contract would be worth about $15 million, or $5 million a year.
“I am extremely excited and honored to be the next coach of such an historic franchise,” Hornacek said. “I look forward to working with Phil – a coach and teacher of the game I have admired for many years – and collaborating with him and our staff to take this team to the level that Knicks fans expect.”
Hornacek amassed a 101-112 record in 2-1/2 seasons as head coach of the Phoenix Suns. He was fired midway through the 2015-16 season after losing 19 of 21 games, putting together a 14-35 record.
In his first season as head coach, Hornacek lead Phoenix to 48 wins and finished second in the coach of the year award race to San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich.
Hornacek, 53, spent 14 years in the NBA as a guard, most notably for the Phoenix Suns (where he made his lone All-Star appearance in 1992) and the Utah Jazz. He would return to the NBA in 2007 in an advisory role with Utah to help Andrei Kirilenko with his jump shot. He eventually became a full-time assistant.
Now head coach of the Knicks, Hornacek leads a team that is only two seasons removed from posting its worst record (17-65) in franchise history. New York’s roster features perennial All-Star Carmelo Anthony and Rookie of the Year runner-up Kristaps Porzingis.
The Knicks have at least $19 million in cap space to sign free agents this summer. That number can jump to more than $30 million if both Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams exercise their player options and test free agency in July.
New York has no draft picks but is reportedly looking to buy a late first-rounder or early second-rounder, as they have hosted workouts this week.
Kristian Winfield covers the New York Knicks for ESNY. You can start the conversation with him on Twitter @Krisplashed.