Good Morning
Good Morning
SportsColumnistsNeil Best

New York coaching puzzle is nearly complete

David Fizdale of the Grizzlies encourages his team

David Fizdale of the Grizzlies encourages his team on the sidelines against the Nuggets at the Pepsi Center on Feb. 26, 2017, in Denver. Credit: Getty Images / Matthew Stockman

We are almost there, people! The emergency redecoration of metropolitan area coaches’ offices has one last makeover left on the agenda: a new head coach for the Rangers.

When that happens, it will complete two years unprecedented in the annals of New York coaching turmoil, a stretch that improbably has left the Jets’ Todd Bowles as the dean of area coaches and managers.

Todd Bowles! It seems like only yesterday I leveraged a free lunch out of attending his introductory news conference. But that was January of 2015, when Sam Darnold was in high school and Geno Smith was the Jets’ starting quarterback.

Since then, Jeff Hornacek has come AND gone with the Knicks.

Speaking of which, the Knicks added a major piece to the coaching puzzle Thursday with the news that they are about to hire David Fizdale, with a news conference planned for this coming week.

This is a good thing for my colleagues and me, because he is quotable. It might be a good thing for the Knicks, because he is young, energetic, smart and knows LeBron James personally. He also has a cool name and cool eyeglasses.

All of which got me to thinking about whether there is a thread running through this recent firing and hiring frenzy, from Kenny Atkinson to Doug Weight to Mickey Callaway to Aaron Boone to Pat Shurmur to Fizdale.

There are general themes, including (relative) youth, openness to analytics, interpersonal skills, comfort with the news media and public positivity. The Rangers likely will go down some of the same roads.

But more than anything, the word that comes to mind is “optimism,” both from and about these guys.

And that is where this gets tricky. Weight has been around long enough to frustrate some Islanders fans, but for the most part the new field bosses have the advantage of newness itself.

On paper, Fizdale looks like a solid choice for a franchise that has made more than its share of mistakes. But he is undefeated, which helps.

So is Shurmur. Boone and Callaway both have winning records but have been on the job for only a month.

History tells us that no matter how shiny an object might seem when it is first unwrapped, things tend to happen.

Let’s randomly check the archives, shall we?

In August of 1991, Newsday’s Joe Gergen wrote a column about the five rookie NFL head coaches that season, including the Eagles’ Rich Kotite, the Giants’ Ray Handley and the Browns’ Bill Belichick.

Gergen wrote that there are no guarantees, even for a coach such as Handley given the reins to a Super Bowl winner.

“It’s a transient business,” Bruce Coslet, the Jets’ second-year coach said then. “There’s something different every day, something different every week. Today’s players are different. The football, the X’s and O’s of it, are changing.

“That’s why it’s so interesting and that’s why it fascinates me.”

Kotite’s Eagles finished 10-6 that season. Handley’s Giants were 8-8. Belichick’s Browns were 6-10. I wonder what happened after that to those three guys?

Again, Fizdale looks good on paper. If the biggest blemish on his resume is ticking off Marc Gasol . . . I am pretty sure we can all live with that.

Best of all, he is different, which is what the Knicks in particular and New York sports teams in general have needed during this mostly dreary couple of years.

The best thing for New York fans would be if the Rangers’ upcoming hire is the last one of the 2010s, if not longer.

Shurmur will have a chance to make a statement on everyone’s behalf in his regular-season Giants debut Sept. 9.

It will be against executive VP Tom Coughlin’s Jaguars, when there finally will be someone in town who has won something as a New York coach.

New York Sports