David Fizdale had his first encounter with the media as head coach of the New York Knicks and he passed this test with flying colors.

David Fizdale’s introductory press conference should give New York Knicks fans a level of cautious optimism. Fizdale, Steve Mills and Scott Perry showcased a unified front that seems to have Jim Dolan’s blessing.

From here on out, the job gets much more difficult. Steve Mills alluded to that at one point when he laughed about his experience with “brush fires” and “forest fires” he’s experienced during his tenure with the Knicks.

It was all smiles today and for good reason. Fizdale and company addressed some major questions surrounding Fizdale’s hire and the Knicks direction heading forward.

What went wrong in Memphis?

It’s no secret that Fizdale’s tenure in Memphis came to a crashing halt due to his friction with star player Marc Gasol. What happened between them is a bit of a mystery. There are conflicting reports about whether or not Fizdale diminished Gasol’s European accomplishments among other gripes between the player and coach. It’s unclear exactly where the friction between the two started and ended—but regardless, Fizdale is owning his failure in Memphis.

“I really take ownership on that… It’s my responsibility to get players to buy in… Hopefully, I really grew from that.”

Sure, he’s not saying a lot here and we may never get a real explanation about the Fizdale-Gasol tiff, but that’s fine. There’s no doubt that Mills and Perry grilled Fizdale about this during the interview process. They believe he’s learned from this experience. There’s no reason—right now—to believe they are wrong.

How will he use Porzingis?

When asked about how he will employ a healthy Kristaps Porzingis in his lineups, Fizdale was quick to say something that should make Knicks fans giddy—positionless. In recent years, teams are gravitating towards smaller, positionless lineups that prioritize skill over size. These small ball lineups are becoming a mainstay of the modern NBA game and Fizdale seems like he is ready to take the Knicks into the era of positionless basketball.

On how he will use Porzingis, Fizdale said:

“All of it. Why limit it. Why put a ceiling on it. Right? I just see so many ways to use him.”

He would go on to add:

“I want to have a real open mind.”

And he wasn’t just talking about Porzingis. When asked about the team’s young point guards, he quickly interjected to say “guards” to make sure he wasn’t labeling anyone on the team as just a point guard.

This kind of forward thinking is a breath of fresh air after enduring the Phil Jackson era where the team and coaching staff were forced to adhere to an outdated triangle offense with little to no flexibility in what they could do on the floor.

How does Jim Dolan feel about all of this?

By all accounts, it sounds like Jim Dolan is willing to be patient and let things play out. In the past, he was quick to interfere and meddle in basketball operations when there was a bump in the road.

This is obviously the biggest wild card for the new regime. If Dolan can hang back and let Mills, Perry, and Fizdale do their jobs, the team might be headed for success for the first time in what seems like forever.

Obviously, this press conference means very little in the grand scheme of things, but it’s quite alright to feel a certain level of cautious optimism. Of course, these press conferences are usually an amalgamation of buzzwords like accountability, culture, perseverance, and other words that likely hung from posters in your middle school classroom. But nonetheless, the trio of Mills-Perry-Fizdale said all the right things. Now the work really begins.

Other Notable Moments

  • Joakim Noah reached out to congratulate Fizdale on his hiring. The door is most definitely being left ajar for a return, which just a few months ago seemed impossible.
  • Trey Burke, Emmanuel Mudiay, Lance Thomas, and Kyle O’Quinn were all in attendance for the press conference. Fizdale said of Mudiay, “We’re gonna get to work. We’re gonna get to work, kid. We’re gonna get you right.”
  • The team plans to interview candidates for assistant positions and the search will be wide-ranging, much like the head coaching search.
  • Fizdale emphasized defense when asked about what kind of style he’d like to employee in New York.

Follow Danny Small on TWITTER

NY/NJ hoops reporter (NBA/NCAA) & sports betting writer for XL Media. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.