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Knicks part ways with David Fizdale, name Mike Miller interim coach

Knicks head coach David Fizdale during the

 Knicks head coach David Fizdale during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 5, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — David Fizdale conducted practice on Friday afternoon, huddled with team executives, all smiling for the cameras, and then went through his media session, explaining his plans for the next game.

Then, when he left the court,  he got the news that he would not be around for that next game.

The Knicks parted ways with Fizdale after practice and later announced that assistant coach Mike Miller will take over as the interim coach for Saturday night's game against the Indiana Pacers at Madison Square Garden.

Miller, 55, the coach of the Westchester Knicks G League team for four years, will try to help the Knicks end the eight-game losing streak that has dropped them to 4-18.

In Fizdale's last two games, the Knicks lost to the Bucks, 132-88, in Milwaukee on Monday night and to the Nuggets, 129-92, at the Garden on Thursday night. The Knicks trailed by 47 against the Bucks and by 43 against the Nuggets.

“Oh, man, we’re all disappointed in how the result turned out,” Fizdale said after practice, referring to the Nuggets game. “But like I said, we talk every day about this stuff. We talked about what we’re going to emphasize in practice. They know that I hit on the things that we’re weak in right now, that we’ve got to get better at. We’re just focused right now on trying to get Indy.”

He will not get that chance, though. The team also dismissed his top assistant, Keith Smart.

Fizdale finishes his Knicks tenure with a 21-83 record, a .202 winning percentage. He was in the second season of a four-year, $22 million contract.

 Earlier this season, a league source said Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups were among the men who could succeed Fizdale. 

Billups is not believed to be interested, but there are a number of candidates without jobs who are available. Jeff Van Gundy, the last coach to bring the Knicks to an NBA Finals appearance (in 1999), showed interest in the job but was beaten out by Fizdale. Tom Thibodeau is unemployed after being let go by the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

It was not even two years ago that team president Steve Mills read his scripted words about the hiring of Fizdale, explaining all of the attributes that had convinced him that this was the partner he needed to turn around the Knicks' fortunes.

“When we made the decision David was the person for us, we looked at a lot of things. We looked at some of his basketball traits, his basketball integrity,” Mills said on May 8, 2018. “We looked at his commitment to development. We looked at his personal integrity and we looked at his ability to communicate and lead and partner with us as we try to move this organization forward. It’s important for us to work as a team and to grow together and to make sure we’re in a position that we have someone here who has the right presence not only for the city, not only for our fans but more important, the presence to lead the group of players we have in our locker room. And we believe sincerely David is that person.”

Fizdale became the fifth coach to be let go since the Knicks last played in the postseason after the 2012-13 season, the latest in a long history of failures of one of the NBA’s flagship franchises. The Knicks have won one playoff series in the past 19 seasons.

In his first season with the Knicks, Fizdale took on a roster stocked with reclamation projects as the team set its sights on the NBA Draft and having the cap space for two maximum contracts in free agency.

Despite having the league's worst record at 17-65, they wound up with the No. 3 pick in the lottery and chose RJ Barrett. Their  struggles and recent history of mishandling players such as Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis cost them even a chance to meet with the league's top free-agent stars.

The Knicks then turned to Plan B, signing seven veterans of middling skills — more talented than last year’s roster, but with no No. 1 options and an ill-fitting assortment of power forwards and players with few winning seasons on their resumes. 

The goal was to improve the product on the floor and change the perception of the franchise. But after a 2-8 start to the season, Mills and Perry called an impromptu news conference immediately after a 108-87 home loss to the Cavaliers, which appeared to start the clock on Fizdale to either turn it around or move along.

He’s gone, but the problems still remain.

The Knicks are expected to be active starting Dec. 15, when they can trade the players who were signed to free-agent deals during the summer.

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