New York Knicks Hire Jeff Hornacek; Spent Last 3 Years in Phoenix
The New York Knicks are close to finalizing a deal that would make Jeff Hornacek their next head coach. Nearly every transaction the Knicks have made the last 15 years has generated more head scratching than optimism, but this one has a bit of both.
Team President Phil Jackson had stated recently that the team’s next head coach would be someone he had a previous working relationship with. The closest Hornacek comes to meeting that qualification is playing for the Jazz in the NBA Finals against the Bulls, who were coached by Jackson. Jackson also stated recently that he wants the team’s next coach to run the triangle offense. Hornacek does not run the triangle offense, hence the reason for optimism.
Former Knicks’ coach Jeff Van Gundy offered some analysis on XM radio:
“The things I’ve heard is that he’s not going to be required to run the triangle. Which is smart from the standpoint that he’s never taught it before.”
The Knicks have already tried and failed with Jackson’s triangle disciples. Derek Fisher went 40-96 and his .294 winning percent is the 2nd worst by a Knicks’ coach in franchise history. His replacement, Kurt Rambis, also ran the triangle and also failed to win games. Rambis went 9-19 as interim coach and was considered a strong possibility to have the interim label removed.
The NBA game has evolved since the glory days of the triangle offense. Instead of shooting guards and small forwards, teams look to acquire a “3 and D.” Instead of power forwards they want to employ a “stretch 4.”
Hornacek’s coaching style is more suited to the modern game and modern positions. His system utilizes high pick and rolls while green-lighting bombing away from 3 point range. This environment could certainly accelerate the development of last year’s top pick Kristaps Porzingis.
Hornacek’s system also encourages ball movement and discourages the dreaded low value “long twos.” On the surface, that appears to conflict dramatically with Carmello Anthony’s style of play, but last season he proved willingness to slightly adapt his game and averaged a career high in assists. Perhaps he can adapt to Hornacek’s system and remove the Knicks from the list of perennial lottery contenders, that is when they haven’t dealt away their top pick.
In his previous position with the Phoenix Suns, Hornacek went 101-112 in 2 ½ seasons and 48-34 in his first season when the team wasn’t even expected to finish .500. He was fired after starting the 2015-16 campaign with a 14-35 record.
In fairness to Hornacek, this last season would have been any coach’s nightmare. The Suns’ top-two scorers, Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe, missed a combined 81 games. He also had to contend with the Markieff Morris soap opera and roster instability. The Suns used 23 different players this season. To put that in perspective, the 28 players used by Memphis this season was the most by any NBA team since the Dallas Mavericks used 27 during the ’96-’97 season.
Hornacek was replaced by Earl Watson, who didn’t have much success either with the Suns going just 9-24.
(New York Knicks Hire Jeff Hornacek)