Two years ago, MSG chairman James Dolan gave his fan base what they wanted by hiring Phil Jackson as president. It may prove to be one of those cautionary tales everyone lives to regret if Jeff Hornacek doesn't work out as the next coach.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Hornacek has landed his second job as a head NBA coach with them Thursday, according to multiple reports. Jackson, who had insisted for months that he wanted someone who installs the triple-post (aka Triangle) offense and with whom he has had a past relationship, will face more criticism than ever.
There’s no connection between Jackson and Hornacek, who was fired by the Phoenix Suns with a 101-112 record (47.4%) and no playoff appearances. Hornacek spent three years as an assistant with the Utah Jazz before being fired in the middle of his third season in Phoenix.
I’m not a huge fan of citing a coach’s past record as evidence that he can’t coach. If you don’t have the players, chances are your record won’t be very good. If you have a disjointed from office that eers in building the roster, chances are your record won’t be very good. And especially with coaches like Hornacek who don’t have a ton of experience, a learning curve for them is required just as it is with young players.
The Knicks are terrible. If the previous resume matters that much, Jackson, who has won 11 NBA championships as a coach, should’ve built a team that has done better than 17-65 and 32-50 in his two seasons in charge.
He, of course, is a novice when it comes to being an executive. The hiring of his former pupil Derek Fisher was a train wreck that ended with his firing. Jackson then installed Kurt Rambis on an interim basis because of his triangle background though he failed with it miserably as head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Knicks even held a camp for players after the season on running the triangle, which was successfully run by Jackson when he had the likes of Michel Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant in Chicago and Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum with the L.A. Lakers.
In New York, they have an aged, disgruntled and slowing Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and pretty much that’s it.
A person with Jackson's record of winning guarantees nothing. Hornacek’s record of losing, though he led the Suns to 48 wins two years ago and failed to make the playoffs in the West which was incredibly deep, doesn’t mean he’s going to fail. How does one go from being a Coach of the Year finalist to now being a suspect coach? It's all about job fit.
Though probably won't get the benefit of the doubt, Hornacek should. He could possibly be good for at least now. The Wizards had Randy Wittman as coach and despite having talent limitations on the roster he took them to 44, 46 and 41 wins after they couldn’t get to 30 four years in a row. Two playoff appearances resulted in making it to the East semifinals and likely the conference final last year if not for John Wall’s broken wrist. Majority owner Ted Leonsis was told constantly that Wittman needed to be fired and didn't pull the trigger until not making the playoffs this season with a .500 record. It was the correct decision and no team owner or president should engage in populism.
Do that and Clyde Frazier might be back in uniform. Here in D.C, they'd bring back malcontent Gilbert Arenas. Remember how Knicks fans roundly booed the selection of Porzingis in last year's draft? That was a massive popular opinion fail.
No matter who they have as coach, the Knicks aren’t going to win 60 games in 2016-17. The process in which Jackson came to the conclusion, however, didn’t make him look very presidential. Quirky, impulsive and aloof? Definitely.
Hornacek was mired in a cesspool in Phoenix, created by the front office with bad moves (trading Isaiah Thomas) and inciting bad blood that carried over to the bench (Markieff Morris) by not being honest.
The Knicks could qualify as a similar situation and the attention there is much greater. Hornacek will have his work cut out for him but deserves the chance to succeed. He might not have been everyone's top choice but fact that he's not Rambis should convince everyone to hold off on the boos.
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