Knicks Coaching Woes: Who's Up Next?

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Here we go. On April 12, the New York Knicks announced that Jeff Hornacek had been relieved of coaching duties after two seasons of duty for the reliably turbulent franchise. Hornacek led the Knicks to a 30-104 overall record, unable to guide New York to a playoff berth in either year. With Kristaps Porzingis incapacitated indefinitely with an ACL tear, the Knicks face the 2018-19 season without their unicorn and without direction. Let’s take a look at who could be steering the Knicks next year:


Mark Jackson

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True blue Knicks fans should be salivating at a chance to get Mark Jackson. He isn’t just one-third of your favorite (whether you like it or not) ABC broadcast trio–the Brooklyn native and St. John’s legend was drafted by the Knicks in 1987, and spent his first five years in the league as the point guard counterpart of a monstrous trio with beloved Knicks Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley.
In 2011, Jackson was hired for his first NBA head coaching gig. He was stepping into the boots of a clunky Golden State Warriors team that had just missed the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year; Jackson aimed to systematically overhaul them into defense-minded playoff contenders. A young star named Stephen Curry was on the rise, and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were drafted during Jackson’s tenure. By 2013, the Warriors were Western Conference threats. A year later, Jackson was out. Some credit Jackson with jumpstarting the Warriors dynasty by developing Curry, Thompson, and Green–to whichever degree it’s true, it’s worth taking a gamble on that winning energy.


David Fizdale


David Fizdale’s impressive résumé begins with the Miami Heat. On staff from 2008 until 2016, Fizdale was present through the Heatles era, winning two championships by way of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh. In his first season as an NBA head coach, Fizdale led the “Grit and Grind” Grizzlies to a 43-39 record, securing a Western Conference 6th seed and bullying the San Antonio Spurs through a tough first-round series. Not to mention, he stormed his way into our hearts with his classic “take that for data” rant.

When Fizdale was let go by the Memphis Grizzlies in November 2017, the move was met with incredulity. At the time, as Stephen A. Smith astutely noted, the franchise had “an absentee owner, a second-in-command who has no basketball background whatsoever, a roster that just isn’t that impressive and a general manager who may or may not be responsible for actually assembling it”–yet it was Fizdale who took the fall. Fewer than 20 games into the season, the Grizzlies–then five games below .500–had just lost centerpiece point guard Mike Conley to an Achilles injury. Grit and Grind icons Zach Randolph, Tony Allen, and Vince Carter had departed in free agency. The roster was in flux. Meanwhile, Marc Gasol allegedly could not find common ground with Fizdale, culminating in an “awkward” fourth-quarter benching of the All-Star center. That would be Fizdale’s last quarter in the Grind House. The aforementioned suspect front office sided with Gasol, much to the chagrin of the Fizdale supporters in Wade and James.
New York media is imploring Fizdale to clear up the Gasol situation if he expects to make it in the Big Apple. Citing Hornacek’s messy relationship with Joakim Noah, the Post notes that for Knicks President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry, “connectivity with the locker room is high on the priority list”. Fizdale, a reputed, well-liked, no-nonsense, accomplished workhorse of a coach, has endorsements from LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors. What else do you need?


Jerry Stackhouse

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He’s the youngest of the coaching prospects, but Stackhouse is no rookie. The 1995 #3 overall draft pick was an All-Star with the Detroit Pistons and an integral part of the Dallas Mavericks’ 2006 Finals run, but has experienced his greatest successes as a coach. In 2015, Stackhouse was hired to join the Toronto Raptors’ coaching staff, where he reached the Eastern Conference Finals alongside current Coach of the Year candidate Dwane Casey.
In September 2016, Stackhouse assumed head coaching duties for the Raptors’ Development League affiliate. The Raptors 905 clinched the best record out of 22 D-League teams, and in a 6-1 postseason effort, defeated the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the Finals. With the 2017 D-League title in hand, Stackhouse was awarded D-League Coach of the Year. In 2018, Stackhouse again took the Raptors 905 to the G-League Finals, but fell to the Austin Spurs in a two-game sweep.
As of Monday, April 16, Stackhouse is in New York and is scheduled to interview with Mills and Perry this week. Stackhouse has proven himself more than capable of managing and developing young players, which should put an asterisk next to his name. Young Knicks Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay would benefit enormously from Stackhouse’s experience.


Mike Woodson


On April 15, it was reported that former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson would love to return to New York. Woodson took Mike D’Antoni’s spot in August 2011 and headed Carmelo Anthony‘s Knicks for three seasons. Telling the Post, “I’d like to finish what I started”, Woodson pointed out that his body of work speaks for itself and believes there should be mutual interest. Later that day, it was reported by ESPN that the Knicks had received permission to have talks with Woodson, who currently serves on Doc Rivers’s staff in Los Angeles.
Woodson is well-known for leading the Knicks to their single postseason series victory since 2000. In 2013, the 54-28 Knicks secured the Eastern Conference 2-seed and beat the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs; they were ultimately knocked out in the Conference Semifinals by a young Paul George and the Indiana Pacers. The following year, the Knicks underperformed, missing the playoffs entirely with a 37-45 record. Woodson was fired and has been with the Clippers ever since.
Woodson told the Post, “I think in New York, it’s better to have done this before … New York is a tough place to coach.” We’ll have to wait and see if Perry and Mills want to revert to the Woodson era or move ahead with a younger candidate in Jackson, Fizdale, or Stackhouse.


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