Report: Knicks focusing on Mike Budenholzer, David Blatt with background checks

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There’s a little dance going on right now with the top available coaching candidates: They are all interviewing for jobs, but with one eye trained on Milwaukee. If they lose in Game 7 to Boston, it’s expected that Joe Prunty will be out and the most coveted available job in the NBA will hit the open market. Even if the Bucks advance there’s a chance that job comes open.

Of the jobs currently available, the one with the brightest lights is the New York Knicks, who have cast a very wide net and spoken with just about everyone available right now, but they seem to be focusing on at least two candidates, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

There could be other coaches in the mix still in New York.

David Blatt, the former Cavaliers coach pushed aside by LeBron James, wants another shot in the NBA. Blatt had an 83-40 record as a coach in Cleveland, has a system that would fit the modern NBA game (with a lot of off-ball movement and up-tempo play), and has the advantage of having played in college at Princeton with Knicks coach Steve Mills. The challenge was player relationships. Blatt wanted to be the smartest guy in the room and put his ego out in front demanding players respect him for all his success in Europe. It instantly turned players off. This isn’t Europe where the coach has dictatorial powers over players and the organization, in the NBA the elite players have the ultimate power. Once he lost LeBron — and he did that pretty quickly — it was only a matter of time. Did Blatt learn from that experience? Does his time in Europe make him a better fit to coach Kristaps Porzingis?

Budenholzer, who wants this job badly, is the kind of detail-oriented, culture-building coach the Knicks could really use — if they give him the time and space to do the job (all eyes on owner James Dolan, not the most patient of men). Budenholzer was Gregg Popovich’s long-time lead assistant in San Antonio who had success as a coach in Atlanta, until the team lost Al Horford and Paul Millsap in successive years in free agency (Budenholzer, who was GM also, deserves blame for that). He could bring what the Knicks need, if he were allowed to build it.

The Knicks need a coach who can establish an identity and build a culture and style around Kristaps Porzingis. Then they need to give that coach the room and time — three years or more — to actually build what is needed. Blatt and Budenholzer might well be up for that task. A lack of continuity of system and style is the Knicks second-biggest organizational problem, and it stems from their biggest one (which isn’t changing).