David Fizdale’s short-lived tenure with the New York Knicks shows the importance of building stability according to Erik Spoelstra.
Head coaching jobs in the NBA can be unforgiving gigs. There’s an awful lot of turnover in the profession and the New York Knicks seem to be in a constant cycle of change on the bench. The Miami Heat and head coach Erik Spoelstra, on the other hand, are a beacon of stability.
The most recent coach to fail at the helm of the Knicks was David Fizdale. Ousted in December, Fizdale joins a long line of coaches to walk through the revolving door of Madison Square Garden.
Of course, it’s no secret that Spoelstra and Fizdale are close friends after the two rose through the ranks together in Miami. In fact, Fiz was Spoelstra’s right-hand man during the LeBron James era in South Beach.
The two coaches are still close and on Sunday, the Heat bench boss spoke at length about Fizdale’s firing plus the nature of the profession these two chose.
“I just think it’s a shame. I think it takes a long time to build a culture and they hired him for a reason and it’s not going to happen overnight,” Spoelstra told reporters prior to Sunday’s matinee in MSG. “I think he’s a brilliant basketball mind and teacher of the game. It’s just unfortunate.
“I look at it all the time and compare it to our situation where we have incredible stability. I get these statistics all the time and people ask me, ‘How do you feel, you’re in your 12th year and this organization has gone through 10 coaches in that period of time.’”
The Knicks are on their seventh head coach—including two interims—since Pat Riley handed Spoelstra the reins of the vaunted Heat in 2008. Fizdale, Jeff Hornacek, Kurt Rambis, Derek Fisher, Mike Woodson, and Mike D’Antoni have all come and gone during Spoelstra’s tenure.
Now, it’s interim head coach Mike Miller‘s turn to try and right the ship. For what it’s worth, Woodson took over for D’Antoni in the midst of the 2011-12 season. He was given the job after leading the Knicks to an 18-6 record and a first-round playoff loss to none other than the Heat.
Miller is off to a 6-11 start, but comparing the roster he was given to Woodson’s in 2012 is like comparing apples and oranges. The Knicks are still trying to figure out what the exact plan is going forward.
“You need the support,” Spoelstra admitted. “You need stability from the club. That’s the most important thing is your ownership and management team. We’re the gold standard in that regard. And that doesn’t take anything away from Coach Miller, at all. I think his path is pretty inspiring as well.”
Spoelstra and Fizdale made their bones in Miami’s video rooms while Miller cut his teeth coaching in the college ranks and later the G League. They took different paths, but there’s a mutual respect there and an understanding of how difficult it can be to finally become an NBA head coach.
“I’m not going to belabor it,” Spoelstra said of Fizdale’s firing. “Look, I’ve worked with Fiz for a long period of time and he’s a great teacher and committed to his craft. I learned so much from him in our years together and he always challenged me and forced me to look at things differently than I normally would. Then to see him between the lines, teaching, I just think he has a great gift for that.”
When reporters tried to follow up on Fizdale’s ousting, Spoelstra shut it down before another question was asked.
“I’m not going to get into all that. That’s just a bunch of garbage.”
It’s not entirely clear what Spoelstra was labeling “a bunch of garbage.” Regardless, there is one thing we know for certain: The Knicks have a long way to go before they can have the stability that leads to one coach lasting for more than a couple of seasons, let alone 12 years.