I don’t know what the Knicks are going to do next because I’d have an easier time guessing what the Kardashian sisters are thinking than reading James Dolan’s mind.
In the wake of Mike D’Antoni’s sudden firing/resignation/whatever Wednesday there are a lot questions about what is next and who will be the Knicks coach next season — Phil Jackson, John Calipari, Jeff Van Gundy, Jerry Sloan (and we’ll get to them, keep reading).
But honestly, that is not the first question that needs to be answered. The coaching choice flows out of another bigger question:
What kind of team do the Knicks want to be?
Their current roster doesn’t fit any one system very well. It certainly does not mesh with Mike D’Antoni’s “seven seconds or less” but it really doesn’t fit a defense first style, the triangle or even a lot of traditional offensive sets. Jeremy Lin, Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire are pick-and-roll guys (and Stoudemire seems to be in some decide this season). Carmelo Anthony wants to get the ball elbow extended and face up for an isolation. J.R. Smith wants to shoot any time he’s inside half court. It doesn’t blend.
The Knicks need to decide who they want to be, then pick a coach that fits that style and start tweaking the roster to match. There is not one style that can win a title in the NBA, but to have a shot at that ring an organization needs to be committed to whatever style they choose from the ownership down to the kids with round Swiffer thing that wipes the sweat off the floor. The GM has to get role players that fit the system. The coach has to believe in the system and get the players to believe.
Right now the Knicks are a collection of odd-fitting pieces. New York has talent and can mold the roster to win, but they need to pick a system and stick with it.
As for the coaches, well that ties into the systems.
• Phil Jackson will be the first choice but I would be stunned if he took the job. He’ll be tempted — he has a great affinity for New York and the Knicks — but I watched him up close the last few years and my impression is he is done as a coach. He’s had both hips replaced, he’s had knee surgery after his retirement. He doesn’t want the travel, the grind of it any more. No amount of money will change that (he’s loaded already). His legacy is he already more championship rings than any coach ever. He’ll look at the hot mess that is the Knicks, compare that to the life of semi-retirement he enjoys, and say no thank you.
Besides, this roster does not work for the triangle at all. The point guard excels at pick and rolls but little else, the center is not a great passer, Stoudemire is a pick-and-roll guy and Anthony makes the ball stop in the offense more than Kobe Bryant. Yes, Anthony can pass and hit the elbow jumper when he wants to — but will he really do that or would he break the sets like he did with D’Antoni so often.
• Jeff Van Gundy’s name will come up, but you can’t go home again. Plus, do you really think he wants to try and get this group to play defense every night? Woodson (and D’Antoni) got about the most out of this roster on that end as can be expected.
• John Calipari would be interesting. Some teams in the NBA run bits of his motion offense but certainly not to the extent Kentucky does. Player relations has always been a strength of Calipari, who is a better game coach than he gets credit for — but that doesn’t make him great at it. Bottom line — you can’t just recruit world-beating talent in the NBA (well, unless you are Pat Riley), you have to coach. Can Calipari do that? Right now Calipari is denying everything, trying to focus on the NCAA Tournament with Kentucky.
• Jerry Sloan is reportedly interested. The former Jazz head coach is a my-way-or-the-highway, old-school hard-a**. Knicks fans should not want this to happen. New York tabloid headline writers are praying this does happen.