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Report: Phil Jackson wants to hire Hornacek because he likes the way he thinks the game

Jeff Hornacek

Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek calls a play for his team as they played the Indiana Pacers during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)


A month ago, Phil Jackson was set on hiring someone from his coaching tree and someone who would use the triangle offense.

Now, Jackson is negotiating with former Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek to take over the coaching duties. Hornacek and Jackson have no in-depth previous relationship, and Hornacek is not going to run the triangle.

Trying to read Jackson’s mind or guess his motivations can be a fool’s errand — he prides himself on his unpredictability. But Howard Beck of Bleacher Report has an interesting explanation in a brilliant piece on the likely hire.

What Jackson values most—in both players and coaches—is an intellectual heft, an ability to think the game, and in Hornacek he saw an analytical mind whose basketball values are in line with his.

“Intellectual capacity matters,” said one person with insight into Jackson’s decision—and now, more than ever, in an NBA shaped by advanced statistics, player tracking technology and sports science....

(Jackson) wants all five players involved—not one star isolating on the wing, and four standing idly by. He considers the pick-and-roll a healthy option, not the basis for an entire offense. He favors a system that provides structure, but allows freedom of expression within that structure—rather than relying on a coach dictating every set.

The triangle does all that, but so do other systems, most obviously the up-tempo motion offense the Warriors use (as the Spurs did when they won a title a few years back). If Jackson gives Hornacek the freedom to work his offense as he wants, this partnership can work.

Of course, it all comes back to talent. The Knicks need a lot of it — starting at the point guard spot in the offense that will run through that spot much more. The Knicks have Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis at the top of the food chain, and some solid role players like Robin Lopez under contract. But the Knicks need a lot more talent — young, athletic talent. Gathering it falls to Jackson.