New York Knicks: Phil Jackson strikes again with the Jeff Hornacek hiring
Dec 6, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek reacts in the game against the Miami Heat during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson went outside the box with his Jeff Hornacek hire. So far, it’s paid off.

Phil Jackson has made a few questionable moves since becoming the New York Knicks President of Basketball Operations that have translated into success.

Jackson re-signed the team’s superstar to an unpopular five-year extension that included a no-trade clause.

NTC’s alway seems to cause problems, don’t they?

Then Jackson went ahead and used the Knicks first top-five pick since Kenny “Sky” Walker in 1986 on a 7-foot-3 “project” player from Latvia.

The Hall of Fame coach even traded for an “injury prone” point guard who many considered to be only a shell of his former self.

Jackson struck gold again this offseason when he hired Jeff Hornacek to be the next head coach of the Knicks.

Jackson disciple Derek Fisher started last season as head coach but was unceremoniously fired after a 23-31 record and an off the court issue with Matt Barnes forced Phil’s hand. Kurt Rambis was then promoted to the interim head coach position. After finishing last season with an uninspiring effort and a 9-19 record, it was clear that Rambis was not the long-term solution in New York.

The Knicks had quite a few options available to replace Rambis, but there were three big names that the New York fans and media had their hearts set on.

The first choice was, like Fisher, a former Laker under Jackson.

Luke Walton had head coaching experience after taking over the Golden State Warriors while Steve Kerr was sidelined for 43 games due to a back injury. Walton went 39-4 during his time in charge. A lot of people assumed the Knicks would pursue Walton because of his familiarity with Jackson’s triangle offense.

Fortunately for New York, the Los Angeles Lakers hired Walton less than a week after firing Byron Scott. So far this season, Walton has a record of 10-16 and the Lakers currently have the second worst defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) in the league with a 109.8.

The next coaching option was Frank Vogel. There was shock around the league when Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird chose not to re-sign Vogel. The 43-year-old head coach made the playoffs in five of his seven years with Indiana. After his services weren’t retained by the Pacers, he joined the Orlando Magic.

Vogel’s veteran coaching and playoff experience were thought to be exactly what the young Magic team needed to reach the next level. That is not how things have worked out so far this year. Orlando is 10-15 in their first 25 games and their 94.8 points per game are the second lowest in the league.

The final coaching option was probably the most coveted choice by the media and fans alike.

Tom Thibodeau is known around the league as a defensive guru. Help on the defensive end of the court is something that the Knicks have needed, and still do. It seemed like even a better fit when it was revealed that Thibodeau even said, “He would crawl to Madison Square Garden” for the opportunity to coach the Knicks.

The hiccup there was Thibodeau’s desire for complete control of the organization, and that was never going to happen with Jackson in New York. Thibodeau was instead hired by the Minnesota Timberwolves who are off to a disappointing 7-18 start. That is good for 14th in the Western Conference. Their defensive rating of 109.2 is the fourth worst in the entire NBA.

Thibodeau was instead hired by the Minnesota Timberwolves who are off to a disappointing 7-18 start. That is good for 14th in the Western Conference. Their defensive rating of 109.2 is the fourth worst in the entire NBA.

After all the other available candidates had been scooped up, it seemed that Jackson was going to remove the interim tag from Rambis’ title. Instead, he threw a curveball and hired Hornacek.

The former Phoenix Suns coach brought an up-tempo offense that puts more emphasis on three-point shooting. The Knicks are shooting 35.8 percent from behind the arc. That is good for eleventh in the league. New York has jumped out to a good start to this season. They are currently 14-11 and third in the Eastern Conference.

Hornacek’s biggest contributions have been his out of timeout plays and in-game adjustments. He is not afraid to bench a player who is struggling for one who is having a productive game.

Hustle and energy have been other keys to the Knicks success. They are tied for second in the league with 15.8 second chance points per game and rank sixth in rebounds per game with 45.8.

This NBA season is still young, so there is still enough time for anything to happen. Right now, though, it appears that Phil Jackson struck gold again when he hired Jeff Hornacek to be the head coach of the New York Knicks.

 

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