OK, it’s true. David Fizdale did some weird things as Knicks coach.
He routinely benched guys to teach them a lesson. He sometimes played rotations that didn’t make sense. And he loved giving the ball to players who had no chance to be a part of the Knicks’ future, players such as Noah Vonleh and Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke.
Yet Fizdale is not the reason that the Knicks have a 4-18 record and are vying with Golden State to be the worst team in the NBA. Fizdale is not the reason the Knicks are coming off consecutive losses of 44 and 37 points, though those losses to Milwaukee and Denver did seal his fate.
Here’s the sad truth that every Knicks fan knows: The team’s problems run a lot deeper than their coach, who was let go after running the team’s practice on Friday.
If all it took to fix the Knicks were changing the coach, the Knicks would be the most fixed team in the league. Including interims who were not subsequently hired as the head coach, the Knicks have parted with 11 coaches since Jeff Van Gundy quit in 2001. That alone says volumes about what might be wrong with the organization.
But rather than review nearly two decades of dysfunction and heartbreak, let’s examine the Knicks’ current state of disarray by looking back 19 months ago when Fizdale was hired.
Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry handpicked Fizdale over more accomplished candidates, including Mike Budenholzer, whose Bucks beat the Knicks by 44 points earlier this week. The main reason they did is they believed the then-43-year-old coach could relate to younger players. Fizdale, who had palled around with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James in Miami, was going to be a free-agent magnet.
Back then, the Knicks’ coaching job looked like a pretty sweet one. For one, the team had Kristaps Porzingis, a player Fizdale could build around. And two, they had cap room to land at least one big-time free agent and possibly two.
With the Knicks again selling hope for a not-so-distant bright future, fans were willing to put up with some pretty terrible basketball last season.
Fast-forward to today. The Knicks don’t have Porzingis, whom they were forced to trade after they couldn’t find a way to make him happy. And they don’t have any superstars, as at least two big-time free agents decided they would rather play for a nervous-energy basketball nerd in Kenny Atkinson than a cool guy they could hang out with.
What they do have is a mish-mashed roster with too many forwards, no real point guard and no big-time talent.
The Knicks signed six players to one-year contracts and asked Fizdale to integrate them into a team of young players whom he was still developing. After initially apologizing to their fans, the Knicks reversed course and tried to sell their fans on the fact that they were going to have a decent team.
“Progress” was the word that often was mentioned by Knicks brass. The team was going to progress toward getting better. But after the Knicks opened 2-8, the only progress being made was that the team was deciding who its next scapegoat was going to be.
When Mills and Perry blindsided Fizdale by holding a news conference 10 games in to declare that the team was not performing up to their expectations, Fizdale knew he was the odd man out.
I can’t imagine that interim coach Mike Miller is going to have an easier time with this roster. And no one expects him to be much more than a placeholder until the Knicks hire some big name such as Mark Jackson or another name brand.
He will be the 14th coach in 18 years. Something tells me the coach is not the problem.