David Fizdale gave his first state of the union address to the New York media. Let’s look at the major takeaways from his press conference and subsequent interviews.
Unfortunately, New York Knicks fans are used to the phrase “hope springs eternal.”
That visual of grinning executives, standing next to their new hire, holding a basketball, as the cameras snap, has become a ritual akin to traveling to the local stationary store in the hopes of winning the lottery.
But maybe this time will be different, says the optimist inside of me. David Fizdale came as advertised. He was charismatic, direct, humble and worked the room like few coaches/executives know how to do.
Between the press conference at Madison Square Garden and various interviews, there was a lot said by the trio of Fizdale, Steve Mills, and Scott Perry. Let’s dive into some of the more important points from this week’s media circuit.
Without a doubt, this was one of the hottest topics leading up to the press conference. Give Fizdale credit, he was as upfront as you could be without going into intimate details about their conversations.
David Fizdale holds himself accountable for what went wrong between he and Marc Gasol in Memphis: “It’s my responsibility as a coach to get players to buy in, collaborate & come together…. Hopefully, I really grew from that and I can apply it to this situation.” https://t.co/9eAP16GMue
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) May 9, 2018
In short, Fizdale took ‘ownership’ of the situation, a word both he and Mills used. Ian Begley of ESPN quoted Fizdale as saying that it was his job as a coach to create ‘buy-in’ from his players.
Fizdale also admitted that he pushed too hard in Memphis because he saw the window for success closing with a veteran team. Fizdale added that he felt, that it would have have been more prudent to let a culture grow organically as opposed to forcing his ideas and ways of doing things on the squad.
However, despite their disconnection off the court, Fizdale was quick to point out that Gasol still produced offensively. Specifically, the former Memphis coach mentioned that Gasol’s touches in the paint were not affected despite shooting more from the three-point line.
Another prevailing theme of the Fizdale media circuit was the idea that players will have a clean slate prior to their evaluation process.
Fizdale promised that he will watch a lot of tape on his new team in the coming weeks, and does not want to create ‘ceilings’ for any of the players.
Fred Kerber of the New York Post writes,
“He doesn’t put the game into a box,” Perry said. “You hear him talk a lot about position-less basketball, not being afraid to try different combinations. Where the game is going today, that’s a very good quality.”
Burke and Mudiay were in attendance at the press conference. Fizdale referenced both players and specifically addressed Mudiay, saying that “we’re going to get you right.”
It will be interesting to see if the idea of a clean slate truly applies to banished center Joakim Noah. Both Fizdale and management explained that every option is on the table and that Noah could conceivably rejoin the team.
Fizdale also praised Noah using the phrase ‘Noah nightmares’ when referencing past Eastern Conference playoff matchups between the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls.
Pat Riley had a lot to do with this hire
From Riley’s personal influence on Fizdale as a coach and person to his extensive conversations with Mills, Riley’s fingerprints are all over this decision.
Fizdale often brought up the concept of culture and how it serves as the backbone of a winning organization. Work ethic and conditioning were key parts of the winning culture in Miami, and it appears that Fizdale plans to bring those same ideas here to New York.
“Pat had some real insight, what he left with Miami and planned on instilling in Memphis, what went wrong and how he came back to fix it. Pat was very open about the conversations he had with David and gave a us a lot of faith about him having learned from the experience.”
Mills appeared to be satisfied with Fizdale’s explanation of his time in Memphis and how he plans to incorporate those lessons into the pressure-cooker of New York.
Fizdale wants to build strong relationships with his players
This could be a sign that the team is, at the very least, interested in Fizdale’s reputation as a good communicator and player’s coach.
Fizdale explained that one of his first tasks as head coach will be to ‘spend time’ with all of his players and their families.
David Fizdale says he's working on scheduling a visit with Kristaps Porzingis in his home country of Latvia. "The plane is warming up," he jokes.
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) May 8, 2018
Knicks fans and the organization are hoping that this meeting of the minds will result in the seal of approval from their young unicorn. Although still in the midst of his rehab, Fizdale will want to make Porzingis’ emotional and physical transition back into the team as seamless as possible.
One of the most interesting parts of the press conference occurred after the question and answer portion. Al Trautwig of MSG referenced current NBA players like Rodney Hood and Hassan Whiteside having issues with their teams regarding attitude and playing time.
Trautwig directly asked Fizdale how he would fix those situations. Fizdale explained that you must have already established a relationship built on trust before these issues surface. Fizdale also mentioned open communication as the key towards resolving these issues.
There will be more to come from Fizdale, and fans will certainly eat it up. Yet, with the draft combine, draft, and free agency all to come within the next few months, Fizdale will start to be judged on his actions, not just his words.
Fizdale’s first impression was strong, now its time for him to walk the walk.