As the NBA Playoffs begin, the Knicks are beginning to start their coaching search in an attempt to go in a new direction from previous coach, Jeff Hornacek. There is a list of coaches currently scheduled for an interview shows the organization’s commitment to an experienced coach with a certain degree of championship pedigree and competence in terms of leading a team. The list is constantly growing, but here are my personal favorite candidates for the vacancy, and what we should expect if they are to sign.
Wright is the coach that has led the Villanova Wildcats to two national championships in three years. He does a tremendous job maximizing his talents and has said that the Knicks would be a preferred destination if he were to make the change to join the NBA. He’s losing his best players at Villanova to the NBA Draft, and now would be the time to make the switch to the Pro-Level.
Wright runs a 4-out Motion Spread offense, which mean that four players are out on the perimeter with one player down low working the post, while there are constant screens and motion around the ball. This opens up a lot of space to work with on the floor and would grant Porzingis shots according to his skill set, while the center can capitalize on the single coverage down-low and fight for position on rebounds. He also does a great job maximizing his players talent in order to make them a team oriented player with a focus on the defensive side of the ball. He expects players to constantly play defense which fits directly in with the culture that Mills and Perry are looking to craft in New York.
The biggest concern with Wright is his lack of experience at the Pro-Level and how well he would be able to manage egos. Many college coaches struggle with the adjustment to the NBA, however there are coaches such as Brad Stevens who make the shift seamlessly. If Wright has a smooth adjustment, he would have the opportunity to grow with this team and establish a culture in New York.
Blatt is one of the most decorated European coaches in recent memory, he has led his team to multiple EuroCup championships and is seen as one of the best coaches currently unemployed in the NBA. His most recent job was in Cleveland, which ended in his firing after butting heads with Lebron James.
Blatt’s calling card is developing young talent, he was originally brought into Cleveland to develop a team of Kyrie Irving/Dion Waiters/Andrew Wiggins/Tristan Thompson, but that was all thrown away following Lebron’s signing in Cleveland in the summer of 2014. Blatt runs almost the entirely same offense that the Cavaliers currently run under Tyronn Lue, just at a slightly lower pace. Spacing the floor with shooters and running a high pick and roll with an athletic rim runner (Porzingis) and a playmaker with the vision to read the defense and find the open man. (Ntilikina? Burke?)
As I covered before, the fracture within the locker room with the divide is a concerning sign. But it had nothing to do with Blatt’s basketball IQ, it had more to do with the way the offense was not being run to Lebron’s liking. Lebron wanted a coach where he could instill his own sets and play how he wants to play. Which is why he was fired for a figure-head type coach such as Tyronne Lue. The key to Blatt would be seeing how he adjusts to a new team and the direction in which he leads the team into the future.
Stackhouse is the youngest coach on this list and is currently coming off a season in the G-League coaching the Raptors 905. He showed his ability to develop young talent and make them ready to compete at the pro level with players such as Jakob Poeltl and Fred VanVleet.
Stackhouse boasts age on his side as well as being a tremendous basketball mind. He played in the league for 18 seasons and knows almost every divot of the NBA game. He understands the importance of the three ball and was a great shooter during his time in the league and showed that he could coach at a high level through the G-League playoffs. He also has the potential to grow with the team and will allow the team to preach continuity without having to worry about a retirement, as well as being the team who gave him a chance at the next level may allow for more loyalty.
Stackhouse has no notable experience at the Pro-Level and it remains to be seen how he would manage minutes on a pro roster looking to contend now. There may be a rather steep learning curve from making the switch from the G-League to the NBA, so the franchise would need to preach patience and give him time to get acclimated to the pro level. The biggest question may be how he handles egos and if he would develop his playbook to fit his personnelle. After doing this, he could develop into a great young coach in the league and allow New York continuity in another area of their franchise.
Fizdale is the definition of a player’s coach. You can get recommendations from the likes of Lebron James and Dwayne Wade as to why Fizdale should be coaching a pro team. He was a defensive minded coach who took over for Dave Jaeger and led the aging Grizzlies to the playoffs. This past season was a struggle following an injury to their point guard Mike Conley, but Fizdale is a solid coach.
He will go to war for his players, the most notable is when he went directly after the referees in order to defend his players. He has a strong passion for the game and will do whatever it takes to win. His passion for basketball can grant the Knicks the full cultural overhaul that this team would desperately need. Fizdale would certainly find minutes for Joakim Noah to be our defensive anchor and revitalize his career, while shielding our young players from the media and going to battle for them.
For as strong of a personality that he is in the clubhouse, his rotations were suspect at times and he ended up feuding with Marc Gasol in an attempt to end a losing streak. This resulted in his firing and raises some of the concerns that David Blatt has with player relationships, but he has nowhere near the same pedigree as Blatt. He was given a rather unfair shake in Memphis following the injury of Mike Conley and the departure of Zach Randolph, but his behavior was unacceptable towards the team’s best player.
Mark Jackson: I was really turned off by the way that he handled the clubhouse and turned players against each other.
Mike Woodson: I love Woody, but he’s no better than an average coach. Won’t be able to lead a team to a title through suspect offensive sets and poor rotations.
Ettore Messina: He would instantly slot in as the best coach on my list, but we have yet to schedule a meeting, will break him down the moment we do however.