New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale needs to build strong relationships with his players, but his relationship with the front office may be just as crucial.
David Fizdale’s tenure with the New York Knicks has only just begun, but it’s clear what his top priority needs to be—gaining the trust of everyone in the organization. Obviously, a new head coach will focus on building strong bonds with his players, but it’s important for Fiz to establish trust at every level of the organization.
The biggest red flag surrounding Fizdale is undoubtedly his fractured relationship with Memphis Grizzlies star Marc Gasol. Gasol was a huge reason that Fizdale was fired just 19 games into the 2017-2018 season. Anytime a coach is let go because he couldn’t coexist with the team’s franchise player, you have to have concerns. And there has certainly been tension between Kristaps Porzingis and the Knicks at times.
But clearly, whatever was said during Fizdale’s interview was enough to allay the concerns of Steve Mills and Scott Perry. Fizdale has a reputation of being a “players coach” and the Gasol situation wasn’t enough to tarnish that reputation.
Even better, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, one of the first things Fizdale is doing as a Knick is flying to Latvia to meet with Porzingis. He’s already well on his way towards building successful relationships with his players. Unfortunately, Jeff Hornacek was fired due in large part to his inability to connect with his players. Fizdale is flying across the Atlantic to connect with his most important player and learn from the mistakes of his predecessor.
Additionally, there seemed to be a disconnect between Hornacek and the front office. Hornacek was Phil Jackson’s guy and although he was a victim of circumstance, it’s clear that the organization needed a fresh face as the head coach. Now Jackson and Hornacek are long gone and a new era is beginning. Make no mistake about it, the legacies of Fizdale, Mills, and Perry will be intertwined. Those three must work in tandem for the organization to succeed.
Fizdale’s relationship with his players, Steve Mills, and Scott Perry are all important, but the one common denominator has always been James Dolan. It would be wrong to say Dolan is a polarizing figure because there really is no divide amongst Knicks fans. The overwhelming majority hate the man. One of the biggest reasons for the hate that Dolan endures results from his tendency to meddle and interfere with the team.
After hiring Phil Jackson, Dolan took a step back from the team and took an uncharacteristic hands-off approach. Whether or not he trusts the new regime enough to continue this hands-off approach remains to be seen. Dolan told Marc Berman of the New York Post:
“Everybody who wants to talk about the Knicks wants to ask me about Phil Jackson,” Dolan said, smiling and shaking his head. “The entire market wanted to me to hire him and when I did, the entire market said it was a great move. The only thing was, everyone said that I shouldn’t interfere with him.”
“Three years later, everyone wanted to know when I was going to do something about Phil. The same people who told me not to interfere wanted me to interfere.”
The Knicks are heading in the right direction. In fact, for the first time in a long time, they actually have direction. If Fizdale can gain the trust of everyone in the organization from top to bottom, he could be patrolling the sidelines of Madison Square Garden for a long time.