If the New York Knicks decide to move away from Jeff Hornacek as head coach it shouldn’t be for the recently fired Jason Kidd.When Jeff Van Gundy abruptly resigned as New York Knicks head coach just 19 games into the 2001-02 season, it sent the franchise into a downward spiral from which they still haven’t recovered. New York has had ten coaches–including interim–since with little playoff success. They’ve advanced out of the first round only once; during the outlier season of 2012-13 when they won 54 games. The veteran leader on that squad was Jason Kidd.
The same Jason Kidd who was just canned by the Milwaukee Bucks as head coach after three and a half seasons. Now a free agent, the former New Jersey Net legend will undoubtedly be linked to the Knicks. Jeff Hornacek’s job security is reportedly shaky with New York once again struggling following their Christmas day game. New York is 4-11 since Dec. 25, and they’ve won just five of their last 18 contests.
But Jason Kidd isn’t the answer. He’s not the answer right now and not ever. The fact is that if Jason Kidd weren’t Jason Kidd, he would’ve been fired a long time ago in Milwaukee. His team ultimately underwhelmed this season in the lowly Eastern Conference. Many prognosticators anticipated they could wind up with a top-4 seed. And that seed was right there for the taking as well; with Washington and Cleveland struggling as they have been.
Kidd’s Bucks didn’t take advantage. Kidd didn’t take advantage of having one of the five best players in the NBA on his squad, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The “Greek Freak” is putting up MVP numbers, and they added star point guard Eric Bledsoe, but Milwaukee sits as the seven seed in the east. They’re just three and a half games ahead of the Knicks in the current standings.
When Kidd left Brooklyn like a martyr he was praised as an up and coming coach in the ranks. The defense was supposed to be his calling card with the young, upstart Bucks. Expectations were high after the team unexpectedly went to the playoffs in his first season and finished top-five in defensive rating. The next two seasons didn’t go quite as well.
In 2015-16, Milwaukee missed the playoffs altogether with just 33 wins and finished 23rd in defensive rating. Last season they showed progress, winning 42 games, but the defense was still mediocre. They were 19th in defensive rating and 20th in opponent effective field goal percentage. This is a Bucks team that had young, long, and athletic talented individual defenders. This was going to be the season that Kidd put together another elite defense.
Then it wasn’t. Kidd’s team was 25th in defensive rating and 24th in opponent effective field goal percentage when he was fired. Having talented defenders like Antetokounmpo, Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, and John Henson at his disposal should’ve enabled Kidd to build an elite defense. He never did. Reports of “frayed relationships” in the organization leading to his departure shouldn’t come as any surprise. Just ask Lawrence Frank or Byron Scott, they’ll tell you Jason Kidd doesn’t play well with others.
The 44-year-old finished his tenure with the Bucks with an overall record of 139-152. Kidd leveraged his one season as Brooklyn Nets head coach into a job with the Bucks and managed to convince everyone that he was a rising star in the coaching ranks. But now the jig is up.
If he wasn’t Jason Kidd, nobody would want the guy. But he is, so it’s tempting for Knicks fans to say, “Bring back Jason Kidd!” They think he’ll give this team some of the magic he injected into that 2012-13 squad. It won’t happen. If we learned anything from Phil Jackson it’s that you can’t be great at everything in the NBA. The odds are against Jason Kidd breaking the Jeff Van Gundy curse.
- All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.