Jeff Hornacek could not last through the Knicks' multiple front offices and rebuilds, but in speaking out about his time in New York for the first time, he expressed no regrets and no hard feelings.
Appearing on ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski’s Woj Pod, he looked back at his time trying to balance his own plans and those of since-fired team president Phil Jackson.
“First of all, I thought it was a great experience," Hornacek said. "As a player, I loved to play in New York. There was one point in my career when I was playing for the 76ers, I thought I was getting traded to New York. And so I was pretty excited about coming here. Obviously, I played against Phil in the Finals as a coach. And just the atmosphere around the Garden, I think the fans are really knowledgeable here. I can remember those years when we came here as an opponent and they actually cheered and appreciated good basketball."
Much of Hornacek’s troubles began in his first season in New York. The team began to struggle and Jackson insisted on moving from a blend of Hornacek's strategy and Jackson’s preferred triangle offense to a full implementation of the triangle, according to players and coaches who were with the team at the time. But Hornacek downplayed the differences on the podcast.
"What Phil wanted to do is mix his triangle principles with today's game," Hornacek said. "We tried to mix it up and I probably wasn't as successful as I'd like to be on that. We used aspects of it. He was never saying, 'Hey, you need to go full triangle.' He saw that the game had changed. But he saw there was a lot of parts of the triangle that's still playing basketball.
"It takes that time. Carmelo [Anthony] knew how to run the triangle. He's a smart player. But when it gets down to it, you need five guys that are on the court to really understand all the parts and little details. And that's why I say it takes years for a group to stay together."