GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Wouldn’t it be great if the coaching turnstile at Madison Square Garden stopped clicking every few years?
Wouldn’t it be great to have a modicum of consistency at The World’s Most Famous Arena? Wouldn’t it be great to have players, a coaching staff and a front office who were all on the same page, were supportive of one another and were committed to playing the same system of basketball?
In the past 17 years, the Knicks’ management style basically has boiled down to a tornado of impulses. Over and over again, we have seen the team bring together a disparate coaching staff, group of players and front office that didn’t really belong together and sometimes didn’t even like each other.
Now the Knicks have yet another chance to get it right.
Early on Thursday morning, after finishing their fifth straight playoff-less season, the Knicks took Jeff Hornacek into a conference room at Westchester County Airport and fired him. It marked the 12th time that the organization has made a coaching change since Jeff Van Gundy left in 2001. By contrast, in the same time period, the Yankees have had three managers, the Giants have had five coaches and the Jets four, the Rangers have had six, the Islanders have had seven and the Nets have had 10.
It’s not that the Knicks hire one bad coach after another. By anyone’s account, Mike D’Antoni, who just won 65 games with the Rockets, and Mike Woodson, who took the Knicks to the playoffs twice, were pretty good.
Yet both Woodson and D’Antoni couldn’t make it here because they found themselves in impossible situations in which they were not on the same page as players and management.
D’Antoni became the odd man out when the team decided to trade for Carmelo Anthony, a superstar player who did not fit his system. Woodson was not a Phil Jackson guy who was going to run the triangle offense.
The Knicks have a new management team in general manager Scott Perry and president Steve Mills. According to what Mills said in a news conference Thursday, they also have a pledge to be patient from team owner James Dolan. This is important because in theory, no one will be tempted to suddenly go after a big gaudy name who doesn’t fit in with the rest of the parts. The Knicks have a genuine chance for everyone to be on the same page, to avoid having a big-name president with one agenda and a coach and players with another.
It’s hard to say what kind of job Hornacek did in his two years, given that he was forced to run Phil Jackson’s triangle in his first season and had to deal with major injuries to Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. in his second.
The thought here is that to keep his job, he would have had to take this team to the playoffs, because he was brought in by Jackson.
“We obviously thought the timing was right for a new voice, a new presence in the locker room to help this team moving forward,” Perry said. “We’re in the early stage of the building process for this organization. The timing was right for this.”
The Knicks have some decent foundation blocks. They have a young, talented superstar — albeit one with some fragility issues — in Porzingis, a solid veteran starter in Hardaway and a young player in Frank Ntilikina who has the potential to be a great defensive player. They also have a high draft pick in a deep draft in June and potentially some money to make some noise in free agency this summer or next.
None of this will matter, however, if the Knicks whiff on this decision. This is not the time to gamble on a Derek Fisher. This is the time to reach out and bring in someone who has ideas but also shares the vision of Knicks management. This is a decision that could define this team for years to come and will be by far the most important decision Perry has had to make since he joined the Knicks last July.
Right now, the list of rumored candidates is vast. Among them are Mark Jackson, Doc Rivers, Jay Wright, David Blatt, Jerry Stackhouse, Chauncey Billups, Jason Kidd, Mike Brown and Stephen Silas.
One gets the feeling that Knicks players would like to see the change happen sooner rather than later, that they are ready for the coaching turnstile to quit spinning. Just ask Hardaway, who has played for three different Knicks coaches in his two stints with the team.
“It would be great to have a coach I could have for more than two years in a row,” Hardaway said. “I hope whomever he is, the next coach can come in here and make a statement and let everyone know he’s all-in and we can get the show on the road.”