The New York Knicks need a new head coach (again), and each of these people can hopefully make the team a contender.
Less than 24 hours after I took a long look at his tenure, New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale has been fired along with assistant Keith Smart. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news.
Knicks fired coach David Fizdale, league source tells ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 6, 2019
Now, the Knicks will search for their fifth head coach in seven years. Assistant coach Mike Miller will serve on an interim basis for the rest of the season but unless the team does a full 180 on his watch, he is unlikely to get the job.
Long story short, the Knicks are in their own personal Groundhog Day and the poor fans are Phil Connors. Day after day, year after year, they wake up and live the same day over and over again. The Knicks continue to struggle to the point where the head coach is fired, an interim takes over, and a search ensues. Lather, rinse, repeat.
And yet, fans debate over who should be the next coach and if they’re up for the job. Can they finally end this futility which has lasted for two decades and counting?
One way or another, this team needs a new head coach. If management wants the best possible results, the following people should be considered.
Honorable mention: Jeff Van Gundy
Every Knicks fan has a soft spot for Jeff Van Gundy. He was the head coach in New York for six-plus seasons and made the playoffs every year before abruptly resigning in December 2001. Van Gundy also took the No. 8 seed Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1999, where the team lost to Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs.
Van Gundy later coached the Houston Rockets for four years before being fired in 2007. He has since worked as a TV analyst for ESPN alongside former Knicks point guard Mark Jackson.
This all being said, Van Gundy’s use of smaller rotations and floor spacing combined with physical on-ball defense would be vintage Knicks. Moreover, he could likely find a way to incorporate a similar style into today’s fast-paced, guard-oriented NBA.
Still, the 57-year-old Van Gundy has had plenty of opportunities to get back into coaching since leaving Houston, yet has remained on TV. Even though he hasn’t ruled out a return to coaching in the NBA, he’s just been gone a bit too long to garner serious consideration.
No. 6: Mark Jackson
Mark Jackson makes sense for several reasons. He’s from New York, was drafted by the Knicks in 1987 and spent six-and-a-half years with them over two separate stints. Jackson is also a St. John’s alum, so he respects the culture of New York basketball as a whole.
Jackson also spent three years coaching the Golden State Warriors and made them a playoff contender again before Steve Kerr put them into overdrive. He was fired for a number of reasons, namely issues with the front office and on his coaching staff.
Jackson would also bring some baggage to New York and would leave a cushy TV gig to return to the sidelines. Still, his history with the franchise speaks for itself and, hopefully, he’s learned from his mistakes in California.
No. 5: Becky Hammon
Becky Hammon truly is a revolutionary. The former WNBA All-Star was hired by the San Antonio Spurs as the first full-time female assistant coach and has been a loyal Popovich lieutenant since 2014.
This is exactly why Hammon should be considered for the Knicks’ coaching vacancy. Popovich is one of the NBA’s smartest coaches and hired Hammon for a reason. He put her in charge of the Spurs’ NBA Summer League squad in 2015 and they were the champions. The man clearly sees something in her.
However, we all know the Knicks front office’s reputation when it comes to patience with coaches. If Hammon comes to New York and struggles as Fizdale did, she could go from being the first female head coach in the NBA to the unemployment line quickly.
No disrespect to the Knicks, but a Gregg Popovich assistant deserves better.
No. 4: Tom Thibodeau
Thibodeau is not without issue. He notoriously clashed with players and management during respective tenures with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves.
Despite all that, Thibs also has a reputation as a man who gets results. He took the Bulls from being a .500 team to a 62-win squad his first year in the Windy City and ended a 14-year playoff drought in Minnesota.
Thibodeau also has lengthy experience as an NBA assistant, including a stint with the Knicks from 1996-2004. Thibodeau also won a ring as a Boston Celtics assistant in 2008.
He’s on the older side at 61 but if the Knicks want results now, Tom Thibodeau might be their guy.
No. 3: Tyronn Lue
Currently serving as an assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers, Lue has plenty of high-level experience as a head coach. He went 27-14 in 41 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers after David Blatt was fired in 2016, eventually winning the NBA Finals. Lue then led Cleveland to two more NBA Finals berths, losing both times before being fired after an 0-6 start last year.
Potential results aside, however, Lue would be a great hire for New York for one reason. He has a strong relationship with LeBron James, and we all know how much influence James has among the players.
How Lue would fare from a record standpoint with the Knicks is up for debate, but consider what his relationship with James could mean for the team. Free agents may look past New York’s many woes solely because of James’ endorsement of Lue.
Lue was also a finalist for the Los Angeles Lakers head coaching job last summer. Perhaps an opportunity on the east coast is his next stop.
No. 2: Dave Joerger
The Knicks would be an interesting team if Joerger was hired as head coach. He spent three years coaching the Memphis Grizzlies and ran a tough defensive system.
Joerger also spent three years coaching the Sacramento Kings and was fired at the end of last year despite signs of a turnaround.
But why would he do well in New York? Well, while in Memphis, Joerger built the Grizzlies’ offense around the frontcourt. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol ran the show as point guard Mike Conley served as the third head of the monster.
The point is Joerger would already have the frontcourt set with Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson. Perhaps he could find a way to make the two work together. The point could be set via the draft, or maybe Frank Ntilikina will be given more freedom with the ball on offense.
Either way, Dave Joerger warrants serious consideration.
No. 1: Patrick Ewing
If Patrick Ewing were hired as head coach of the New York Knicks, it would break New York. He is quite possibly a whole generation of Knicks fans’ most beloved player, having spent 15 years with the franchise after being drafted first overall in 1985.
The Hall of Famer also spent 16 years as an NBA assistant coach with four different teams. Currently, he is in his third season coaching his alma mater, Georgetown University. Ewing has gone 39-32 early in his tenure and has the Hoyas moving in the right direction, improving from 15 wins to 19 in just two years.
The thing is, hiring Ewing as the head coach comes with a risk. Fans love the guy almost unconditionally and may have a hard time watching the team struggle under his watch.
This is where things grow complicated for the front office. By hiring Ewing, the Knicks put themselves in a position where they one day may need to fire him. Regardless of results, the optics of a potential Ewing firing would be bad.
Still, Ewing takes coaching seriously and the Knicks could be a dream job for him. He knows the team, its owner, and New York well.
Simply put, the Knicks could certainly do worse.