The New York Knicks need a steadying coaching presence, and hiring Jason Kidd would be the polar opposite of that.
It’s not that the man doesn’t know basketball. One doesn’t play for 19 years, make 10 All-Star teams, and win a championship ring without a wealth of basketball knowledge. Kidd later parlayed this knowledge into head coaching stints with the Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, going 183-190 in four-and-a-half years.
Now, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News, Kidd has emerged as a frontrunner to be the Knicks’ new coach. The reason? Negotiations with former Knicks assistant and NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau have reached a stalemate.
This means instead of hiring former Nets coach and Knicks assistant Kenny Atkinson, or a star assistant from another team, the Knicks have pivoted focus to Kidd. However, this could potentially do more harm than it does help the Knicks.
The fact is Kidd’s checkered coaching past raises lots of questions, so considering him to be the next Knicks coach should be a complete non-starter.
Jason Kidd’s coaching soap opera
Let’s start at the beginning. After playing his final NBA season with the Knicks in the 2012-13 season, Jason Kidd was hired as head coach of the Brooklyn Nets. This seemed like a good idea for several reasons. Kidd spent six-and-a-half years playing for the then-New Jersey Nets and was instrumental in turning the team into a perennial contender. Kidd also led the Nets to two NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003.
And on paper, Kidd did a good job despite jumping right to coaching from retirement with no time in between. The Nets made the playoffs as a No. 6 seed and made it as far as the East Semifinals.
This is where the story turns dramatic. Per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, Kidd was in a regular power struggle with Nets general manager Billy King and wanted a role above him. Kidd also regularly feuded with assistant Lawrence Frank, who was his head coach when he played for the Nets, and ultimately demoted him. This led to Kidd reaching out to the Milwaukee Bucks about being their coach even though they already had Larry Drew.
Still, the damage was done. Kidd’s rights were sent to Milwaukee for draft picks in July 2014 and the divorce was final. Kidd went 139-152 with the Bucks and, despite the team’s turnaround, his ego got in the way. That combined with the team underachieving sealed his fate, and he was fired in 2018.
What does it mean?
Now, how does all of this relate to the New York Knicks? Well, first of all, the team’s next coach will be its 14th in 20 years. That doesn’t scream stability. Former agent and new team president Leon Rose is trying to build a winning culture. Given Kidd’s brief track record, hiring him sort of goes against that.
Now, that isn’t to say Jason Kidd didn’t make an impact at either of his coaching stops. In Brooklyn, his Nets tied for 10th in the league in points allowed. Upon arriving in Milwaukee, he turned the Bucks into a 41-win playoff team after they won just 15 games under Drew the previous year. Kidd had a good working relationship with Giannis Antetokounmpo, although his emergence as a true superstar came after Mike Budenholzer took over.
Currently, Kidd is an assistant with the Los Angeles Lakers. Perhaps regularly spending time with and learning from LeBron James has mellowed him out some.
But there’s the rub. Per Bondy, the Knicks would not let Kidd pick his own assistants in order to “save him from himself,” which makes sense. Between his history of clashing with management and players, the last thing Jason Kidd should have is complete control.
Most important of all, the New York Knicks are a young squad. Aside from rebuilding a winning culture via the draft, trades, and free agency, the front office has to think of the current team. Rising second-year wing RJ Barrett is only 20 and needs a coach who will make him a more complete payer. Center Mitchell Robinson is on the cusp of breaking out. Hiring someone known for having an ego could negatively affect not just their development, but the whole team’s.
Now, think of where the Knicks currently stand in terms of their culture. The coaching carousel, combined with front-office drama, has hindered the team’s ability to lure top free agents. Given how New York will all but certainly draft a scoring point guard, hiring a coach known for inconsistency and alienating people isn’t the right decision.
This means that for the Knicks, Jason Kidd should be an absolute non-starter. The team (again) has a slate cleaner than Adrian Monk’s apartment and whoever their next coach is should reflect that. In hiring Kidd, even if he doesn’t get to pick his assistants, New York runs the risk of having to start all over again at some point.
Jason Kidd was a Hall of Fame player and knows the game well. His accomplishments in coaching the Nets and Bucks should not go unnoticed. He knows how to develop players and just knows the game.
But given where the Knicks are in their rebuild, better for them to hire a steady hand rather than one known to rock the boat. As a result, Jason Kidd should not be their man.