It’s official. The Knicks on Monday announced David Fizdale as their new coach.
Unlike past coaches and general managers and presidents, there is no “sizzle” surrounding his selection, but maybe there will be plenty of substance this time.
Fizdale was coach of the Memphis Grizzlies for slightly more than one season, compiling a 50-51 record and going to the playoffs in his first season after 13 years as an NBA assistant coach.
He was fired after a 7-12 start to the 2017-18 season and a clash with star center Marc Gasol, but Fizdale might be the best coach for the Knicks and star Kristaps Porzingis in terms of his style of play and his reputation as a players’ coach.
“I would like to congratulate and welcome David to the Knicks organization,” owner James Dolan said in a statement. “David is a bright and creative basketball mind who is highly respected throughout the NBA. I’m confident Steve and Scott identified the right coach to lead this team to the success our loyal fans deserve.”
Dolan was referring to Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry, who led the search to replace Jeff Hornacek.
“After a thorough coaching search, it was clear that David would be a great fit with the Knicks and we’re thrilled he’s joining our organization,” Mills said in a statement. “He is an experienced coach, strong leader and effective communicator who understands what it takes to build a winning culture.”
In a statement, Perry described Fizdale as “a dynamic coach who will thrive in New York.” Referring to Fizdale’s time with the Heat under coach Erik Spoelstra when they won a pair of NBA titles with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, Perry added, “His championship pedigree, resiliency and expertise in player development make David well-suited to establish the Knicks as a consistent winning basketball team.”
Fizdale, who will be introduced at a media conference on Tuesday, said in a statement, “I am honored and humbled to join the Knicks as head coach. I want to sincerely thank Jim, Steve and Scott for this tremendous opportunity. I appreciate the enormous responsibility it is to coach the Knicks and am ready to give my all to build the type of winning team the passionate fans of New York will be proud of.”
The Knicks interviewed 11 people for the job before choosing Fizdale, who earned a reputation as a beloved assistant in eight seasons with the Heat. James and Wade have sung his praises as a communicator and a coach. He also acquired an appreciation for the Heat system from Spoelstra and president Pat Riley.
Fizdale’s references to the Heat system reportedly rubbed some members of the Grizzlies, including Gasol, the wrong way. Although he made the playoffs in his first season with the Grizzlies, Fizdale hoped to transform the team from a traditional NBA approach that was oriented to low-post scorers into an up-tempo, high-volume three-point shooting attack. After his first season, he traded Zach Randolph to Sacramento and tried to help Gasol transform into a center who could move to the perimeter and make three-pointers.
It didn’t work. But with the Knicks, Fizdale will have the opportunity to work with 7-3 power forward Porzingis, who has shot 36.1 percent from three-point range in his career. Porzingis is on the mend from ACL surgery, but they are a perfect fit, and the style of offense Fizdale hopes to implement should mesh perfectly with his skills.
Fizdale is said to be planning a trip to Porzingis’ native Latvia to visit with him during the offseason.
In addition, Fizdale should mesh with Knicks rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina, who shot poorly during his rookie season (31.8 percent from three-point range and 38.5 from two-point range). If Fizdale can implement a more fast-paced offense and convince Ntilikina to drive more often, it should help him improve his shooting as an NBA sophomore.
Fizdale brings a commitment to defense that was honed in his years under Riley and Spoelstra. Last season, the Knicks ranked 23rd in defensive efficiency. Expect that to change dramatically under Fizdale.