David Fizdale
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

A revamped roster and desperate fanbase mean New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale has his work cut out for him in the 2019-20 season.

Josh Benjamin

David Fizdale needs a strong season—not necessarily a year which ends with a playoff trip, mind you.

The New York Knicks head coach must instead build off of a premier season which only yielded 17 wins. Moreover, he must prove to team management regardless of how the Knicks play in 2019-20, he is their guy. He is the one who will captain the ship back into postseason waters if given the chance.

A revamped roster certainly helps. Julius Randle was added in free agency, as were strong role players in Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson and others. RJ Barrett, if he develops properly, could soon be the face of the franchise.

However, rosters are just names on a page. This season is more about a revamped Knicks team buying into Fizdale’s message and coaching philosophy. New York fans also demand results quickly, so any bumps in the road will be met with minimal patience on their end.

All of this adds up to one key truth: David Fizdale has a lot to prove this season and with millions of New Yorkers’ eyes on him, he better deliver.

Don't live in the past

And just how well suited is David Fizdale to take the Knicks forward? Well, the honest answer to that is we don’t know. His only head-coaching experience prior to New York is a season-plus with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Fizdale did lead Memphis to the playoffs in his first season but was unceremoniously fired the following year after a 7-12 start. His firing wasn’t for his coaching, but rather over personal issues with star center Marc Gasol.

Yet, the Knicks still trusted Fizdale to turn the team around and signed him to a four-year contract. In his introductory press conference, he even owned up to how he could have handled the Gasol situation better:

“I really take ownership of that,” Fizdale said. “We didn’t necessarily click on things. That’s my responsibility as a coach to get players to buy in, collaborate, come together. For whatever reason, we bumped heads. But I took that to heart. My wife can tell you better than anyone, I’ve been meeting with some super leaders from all industries and all walks of life and getting their feedback on how to manage and deal with different situations … and really try to dive into being better and growing from the situation.

Such accountability is rare from anyone, especially someone about to coach a team in America’s largest media market. Fizdale could have played defense and just said Memphis didn’t work out. Instead, he spoke of the experience and how he was using it to get better.

David Fizdale has grown as a head coach, and so should the team with him. Otherwise, people could get impatient.

Taking it slow

Now, this isn’t me saying the Knicks should fire Fizdale if the Knicks’ win total doesn’t greatly increase this season. Generally speaking, any head coach needs at least three years at the helm before it can be determined if he’s good or bad at his job. Unless a coach proves woefully inept in a shorter amount of time, three years is the proper window.

And, barring any setbacks, Fizdale should get his third season. Even in winning just 17 games last year, the Knicks were outscored by just 9.2 points per game. Though insignificant, this number tells quite a story. Bad as the Knicks were last year, they played hard for David Fizdale. Even in tanking, the team played hard under his watch.

Now, consider the Knicks are already better on paper than they were last year. Fizdale has shiny new toys instead of hand-me-downs. Move over, vintage Hess Truck, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett are here to play, and hard.

The point is the Knicks, even in missing out on Kevin Durant in free agency, have given their coach help. David Fizdale has the tools to succeed in the Big Apple.

Now, it is just a matter of how he uses them.

Final thoughts

And, all in all, this writer isn’t worried about David Fizdale. Fans shouldn’t be either. David Fizdale is the capable voice the Knicks locker room has needed for years and the 2019-20 season should be exciting.

But Fizdale shouldn’t get too comfortable. Capable though he is of fixing the Knicks, not even he is immune to what comes with dealing with new faces in the locker room. He has to make sure Barrett and Randle live up to the hype. Fizdale must also ensure Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson step up in their second seasons.

Most important of all, Fizdale must learn from last year and other experiences. The good news for fans is he seems to be well ahead of everyone in that area.

“I’m really tough on myself,” Fizdale added in his introductory press conference. “I self-reflect, which is not always easy to look at the mirror and say you were part of the problem. I hopefully can improve on it and apply it to this situation.”

David Fizdale’s greatest trait is self-awareness so, knock on wood, any problems he sees in the clubhouse should be dealt with quickly. In doing so, he instantly makes the New York Knicks a better team regardless of who’s on the roster.

Here’s to a strong second season for the man. Because after nearly two decades of mediocrity, doesn’t New York deserve some hope?

 

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