Report: New York Knicks reach terms to make David Fizdale new head coach

Associated Press
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Take that for data, New York.

In what is a smart move — providing an impatient owner actually gives him and the front office the time and space to do their jobs — the New York Knicks are going to hire former Memphis coach David Fizdale as their next head coach, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Fizdale will bring a good defensive system and a modern offense — one that will feature Kristaps Porzingis and will not have three sides — to New York. Fizdale will soon fly to Latvia to meet with Porzingis, according to the ESPN report.

This is potentially a good hire in terms of system and culture, except that the team is not likely to win much next season with Porzingis out for at least half (and maybe more) of the season coming back from an ACL injury. This is going to be a bit of a process in New York, where Fizdale and staff need to develop Frank Ntilikina, find a way to properly use Tim Hardaway Jr., and build a new team culture.

Fizdale was one of the hottest names in coaching circles this summer because teams think he can build a winning culture — if he gets the Fizdale becomes the Knicks’ 11th coach in 16 seasons, the fifth in the last seven. Picking a style and sticking with it has been the franchise’s second biggest weakness in the past couple of decades, and that stems from the biggest weakness. (Google “Knicks owner” if you’re confused.) The new brain trust in New York — Steve Mills and Scott Perry — have preached stability for the organization, but the Knicks are going to need to prove that before anyone believes it.

Fizdale was fired by the Grizzlies 19 games into last season when the team was on an eight-game losing streak — six of those came after point guard Mike Conley went out with an Achilles issue (one that kept him sidelined the rest of the season). However, losing wasn’t the big problem for Fizdale in Memphis, the team had won 43 games and made the playoffs the season before. Instead, the issue was Fizdale wanted to install a modern, motion style of offense in Memphis and the team’s biggest star — Marc Gasol — had pushed back against that (the coach had benched Gasol in the fourth quarter of the eighth loss because of his play). Fizdale could not win him over, Gasol is not the easiest guy to get along with in the league, and in the NBA the coaches almost always lost the power struggle with a star player.

Outside of the Gasol household, Fizdale is well liked and well-respected around the league, with players such as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade being big fans (from when Fizdale in Miami during the final three).

Getting fired from Memphis has worked out well for Fizdale, he has landed one of the NBA glamour jobs. It’s also a gig that many a good coach has struggled with. Nothing is certain in New York, but this was a good hire.