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SportsColumnistsBarbara Barker

Knicks fans deserved a better explanation from the club

Knicks president Steve Mills, right, and general manager

Knicks president Steve Mills, right, and general manager Scott Perry, left, watch NBA basketball game action in the first half between the Knicks and the Indiana Pacers, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. Credit: AP/Mary Altaffer

A two-sentence statement.

That is all the Knicks think you deserve.

It doesn’t matter that there were plenty of questions that Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry needed to answer the day after parting ways with coach David Fizdale.

It doesn’t matter that fans need to know if expectations for the team have changed.

It doesn’t matter that in a time of turmoil, team executives are supposed to be leaders, supposed to be the public face of the franchise.

Mills and Perry did not attend the news conference before Saturday night’s 104-103 loss to the Pacers dropped the Knicks to 4-19. Instead, the team decided to let interim coach Mike Miller, whose NBA experience is limited to the last two months as a Knicks assistant, be the face of the team.

 Talk about awkward. Miller, who spent the previous four seasons as coach of the Westchester Knicks, is well respected and seems like a good guy. Still, there probably were nearly as many reporters in that pressroom as there had been fans in the stands at some of his G League games last season.

 He did the best he could, but it wasn’t fair for him to have to be the one to answer questions about how the change happened on Friday.

 “Well, I have no sense of time right now,” Miller said when asked when he learned of the coaching change. “It was yesterday afternoon. Where we have really pushed all the focus is with the players and the staff to work on what we talked about. Let’s get ready for this game.”

 As of tip-off, the only communication fans had gotten from the powers that be about their coaching switch was a two-sentence statement issued hours after it was first reported Friday that the change had been made.

 “Today, head coach David Fizdale and assistant coach Keith Smart were relieved of their coaching duties. Assistant coach Mike Miller has been named interim head coach,” the statement read.

Arrogant? Tone-deaf? Maybe even a little cowardly? It’s hard to interpret the lack of information about such a major change, especially from a management group that has been preaching accountability ever since it took over the team from Phil Jackson.

It’s also more than a little strange, given that the two had no problem holding a surprise news conference after the Knicks started off 2-8. Fizdale was basically put on notice in that news conference when Mills said the team was not performing to the level that they had anticipated.

 Right then and there, it became clear that Fizdale was going to become the scapegoat if the team continued to fail.

Anyone who takes a look at the Knicks' lopsided roster — too many forwards, ineffective point guards, no superstars – can see that Fizdale was not the only one to blame for the fact that the Knicks entered Saturday night’s game at 4-18.

Of course, this leads us to one more explanation for the no-show by Knicks executives. Could it be that they soon may no longer be the face of the Garden? Could other changes be in the works for a franchise that is destined to fall short of the postseason for the seventh straight season?

 Is it possible that Knicks owner James Dolan is in the process of prying Raptors president Masai Ujiri out of Toronto? Is it possible that Mills and Perry also have been put on notice, that like Miller, they are just placeholders for another big name to come in and try to set the Knicks on the right path?

Knicks fans trusted Mills and Perry. They put up with a terrible year of basketball last season, thinking that it would pay off when the team added a bunch of new stars and started moving toward the playoffs this season. They bought into the plan, and now the plan is not working.

 They deserve an explanation.

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