New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale has not been shy with his presence in the media, allowing all of us to remember an old media favorite, Rex Ryan.
Listen, give me a minute here. Before you engage in an expletive-filled tirade, unfollow me on twitter, revoke my New York Knicks credential, and/or create a darts target with my face on it, give me a minute.
David Fizdale’s honeymoon phase with the Knicks has had fans smitten with his direct, no-nonsense and charismatic approach. Right now, Fiz can do no harm.
He’s preached patience and development with players, handled the media well, and has not made any outlandish predictions regarding record or playoff appearances.
The latter of what I’ve just mentioned will not scream Rex Ryan, but like I said, give me a minute.
Fizdale is slowly but surely making himself the face of the franchise. In the process, he is squarely taking the pressure off of the shoulders of his young, unproven team and placing them directly on his own.
Hear Fiz speak, you certainly get the impression that he has the “chutzpah” to handle it. Time will tell, but I won’t be betting against him anytime soon.
Say what you want about Rex Ryan, but the man brought the Jets to two consecutive AFC championships. A big part of his appeal was his aggressive style on defense and his reputation as a players coach.
Where Ryan’s strategy works extremely well is when his players have to deal with the pressure of the New York media. The big mouth coach does most of the talking before and after games. What this does is take the pressure off his players. If the Jets lose, the media attacks Ryan, not the Jets players. He is the leader of the team and the scapegoat whenever his team underperforms. Because of this, players love playing for him, and it allows Mark Sanchez and Jets players to focus more on the game.
Although we haven’t seen how the pressure will play out under Fizdale, it feels like Fiz will have at least one or more “take that for data” moments in New York.
Fiz knows that his team is young and there will be tough moments during this upcoming season. A lot has been invested in the development of players like Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Burke and, of course, franchise star Kristaps Porzingis.
The former Memphis coach wants the media to focus on him so that these young players can just focus on basketball, the way that a young Mark Sanchez tried to back in 2009.
Favaloro also mentions Ryan’s style as a positive influence on free-agents. When you hear phrases like “would run through a wall for him”, and “knows how to get the best out of players” you can start to see the comparison to Fiz.
There is even reference to a Sports Illustrated poll which identified Ryan as the coach that most players wanted to play for. Ryan beat out the popular Mike Tomlin by a sizeable margin.
And while the early returns are meager, Fiz also seems to have a similar effect on free-agents. Per Ian Begley of ESPN, Mario Hezonja’s decision to join the Knicks was largely based on his belief in Fiz.
The Knicks beat out several teams to sign Mario Hezonja — including POR, SAC & Memphis — in part because of Hezonja's belief in new coach David Fizdale, per @wojespn. This isn’t a star choosing the Knicks over other suitors but it’s a win for NYK on a player they coveted — https://t.co/2YchaOFmHS
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) July 2, 2018
And don’t for one second think that Fizdale won’t factor into the decision-making of prospective free-agents in both, 2019 and 2020 like DeAndre Jordan, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler, and Draymond Green.
Current players have already commended Fizdale’s preparation, open communication, and overall coaching style.
Enes Kanter, via Marc Berman of the New York Post, says that Fiz “tells you what you need to hear – not what you want to hear”. Ron Baker also made similar comments in an interview at the Las Vegas Summer League.
Now, of course, there are drawbacks to this style. Reportedly, Ryan’s consistent praise of Darrelle Revis influenced his holdout and belief that he was worth more money than the Jets did. In Fizdale’s case, it’s possible that his personality and direct style may have irked Memphis star, Marc Gasol.
Nevertheless, there is a new era budding in New York. Fizdale’s ability to sell himself and take pressure off his players will endear him to most of the New York faithful, that is until the losing starts.
Yet, if Fiz can continue his approach without making outlandish predictions and without giving added reason for other teams to beat the Knicks, the sky’s is the limit for this coach and his young team.