Knick fans need a reality check. What were the realistic expectations for a team coming off of a 17-win season a year ago? They did draft Kristaps Porzingis and Jerian Grant and they did sign Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams, Arron Afflalo and Kyle O’Quinn. They had their best player, Carmelo Anthony, healthy and fresh coming off of knee surgery. Plus, they had a head coach in Derek Fisher that was entering his second season.
But with the news last week that Phil Jackson had fired Fisher and had named Kurt Rambis interim head coach, Jackson admitted a mistake. His first coaching hire turned out to be a disaster as Fisher never improved on the bench and grabbed more headlines and negative attention for his dating life.
It is not the worst thing in the world, though. What would have been worse is if Jackson had continued on with Fisher and continued to proliferate the mistake. The names on the short list to be named the full-time head coach is short and are all Jackson guys: Luke Walton, Brian Shaw and Rambis. Those names are not exactly enticing to Knicks fans and some are even angered that there is no pursuit of Tom Thibodeau or Jeff Van Gundy.
My message is simple: Trust in Phil! You really don’t have a choice right now because he has not even begun the third year of his five-year, $60 million contract. Plus, he does not have an opt-out until the summer of 2017. Jackson is not going anywhere anytime soon and because he made the decision to fire Fisher, I do believe he is in this for the long haul. He wants to be just as good an executive as a head coach. That will be nearly impossible to accomplish, but the goal is there. Jackson has too much of an ego to admit failure and run back to the West Coast. He wants to share the same vision with his next head coach that he has. It is about a team playing together, as one, sharing the basketball and winning games. So as many in this city bemoan the idea of the triangle offense, he wants to win a championship, as an executive, here in New York.
If he did that, would it be as good, if not better, than any of the titles he won as a head coach in Chicago or Los Angeles. After all, the Knicks have not won an NBA title since 1973. To bring a championship to this city, as an executive, would be a remarkable accomplishment. Now, he has to do it with the doubters and naysayers getting louder. He does deserve to be criticized for the initial Fisher hiring.
You have had people even suggest that James Dolan needs to be involved more. Are we serious? On what planet would that be a good idea? Not on this one and not in this city - in any way shape or form. Dolan being hands on is why the Knicks are in the position that they are in. I certainly, as a Knicks fan, wanted what the Rangers had when Glen Sather was running the team. Dolan got out of the way. Just like many in this city, he did not pretend to know hockey and he did not get involved in the franchise changing decisions. That kind of relationship is what I hoped it would be when Phil was hired to be the President of basketball operations. It still can be, but we need to be patient and let Jackson do the job.
From my understanding, Jackson is not looking for the first way out of here. He remains committed to the task and the job at hand and I think the firing of Fisher helps cement that. His next coaching hire will be an interesting one. It will be someone that he comfortable with. It will be someone that sees basketball the same way that he does - so yes, it will be a triangle head coach. But what will ultimately turn this Knicks team from a pretender to a contender is simply better talent. As Carmelo Anthony said last week in Toronto for NBA All-Star weekend: “It’s more about guys wanting to come, guys wanting to play alongside me, guys seeing the future of what’s going to be on the court. I don’t think the coaching situation is a big part of that. Maybe it is in some guys’ eyes. But I think in this day and age, it’s more about who the guys who are going to be playing out there on the basketball court than it is who’s on the sideline. That could come later.”
He is exactly right. So don’t get worked up about who the next head coach will be. Trust in Phil that he can recruit the right talent.