Welcome David Fizdale to the New York Knicks coaching hot seat. Now don’t get too comfortable. Lately, it has been a distinctly temporary spot.
Since 2001, when Jeff Van Gundy left the job, 10 coaches have worked the Knicks sidelines, including three Hall of Famers. Only two of them have won more games than they lost and that includes interim coach Herb Williams, who was 1-0 in 2004. That earned Williams a return engagement in 2005 and this time his team went a more Knicks-like 16-27.
Lenny Wilkins, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas all had their Hall of Fame reputations somewhat tarnished when they tried coaching the Knicks. So have a fistful of others who found this one of basketball’s most unrewarding jobs. This is not San Antonio, where Gregg Popovich has coached forever. This is New York and a what have you done for us lately coaching carousel.
Not since the heyday of Van Gundy’s teams that were headlined by Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley have the Knicks managed to escape the NBA wilderness.
Coaches have come and gone trying to straighten this franchise out but only one, Mike Woodson, had any real success at 109-79 from 2012-2014. As soon as the Knicks decided to go old school and turned the team over to Phil Jackson, Woodson was dismissed and the downward spiral resumed.
Jackson’s coaches were required to run his favorite triangle offense, regardless of whether they or their players believed in it. This did not work nearly as well in New York as it had in Chicago and Los Angeles. It led to the firing of Jackson and his three coaches, Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis and Jeff Hornacek.
Jackson’s signature free agent signing was a used-up Joakim Noah. Signed for four years and $72 million, between injuries and a suspension, Noah managed to play in 53 games over two seasons before being waived
Fizdale was hired after a high profile search conducted by the Knicks. He started last season as coach of the Memphis Grizzlies but was fired after an ugly hissy-fit with Marc Gasol. Management predictably chose the player instead of the coach.
Part of the Knicks’ problem has been a woeful draft history. They often dealt away picks in bad trades and when they retained them, it turned out badly. The poster boy for that was Frederick Weis, who was supposed to succeed Ewing. Weis never played a minute in the NBA.
The roster turned over and over and over again but the team never seemed to connect. There was the Carmelo Anthony era or maybe error would be a better description. He was a celebrated superstar when he arrived in New York and a scapegoat when he was traded away.
Ewing longed to coach his old team and had assistant jobs with several other teams, but not the Knicks. He finally got the head coaching job at his alma mater Georgetown University.
Now it is Fizdale’s turn. He is working with a mostly anonymous roster, whose best player, Kristaps Porzingis, is still recovering from a torn up knee that may sideline him for the whole season. Welcome to the Knicks’ merry-go-round, Mr. Fizdale. Hang on tight. It could be a bumpy ride.