The New York Knicks are in Year Two of their rebuilding project. Derek Fisher was picked to preside over this project last season and it was evident they were trying to be as bad as possible once Carmelo Anthony went down to injury. The team tanked and ended up getting the third pick in the draft, which turned out to be forward Kristaps Porzingis (which many expected to be a project). The addition of Porzingis, the free agents the Knicks added and the return of Carmelo Anthony had some thinking the Knicks could make the playoffs. But the Knicks, even though they have shown improvement, don’t look like they will be making the playoffs again this season either. The Knicks are currently 23-31, good for 12th in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. And after starting 20-20, the team is now 23-31, including losing nine of their last ten games. Needless to say, the organization was not happy with the recent outcomes and the slow starts as well. So with that dissatisfaction, the Knicks made a move. New York fired head coach Derek Fisher on Monday, replacing him with interim head coach Kurt Rambis. And with that move, the Knicks move forward.
Fisher was following in the footsteps of Jason Kidd when he went from playing straight to being a head coach. With Phil as his mentor and the relationship they built when Phil coached Derek, there was some thought that the pairing would work well together. But apparently the relationship was not strong enough to overcome the recent struggles. It seemed like the team got off to a pretty good start and then inexplicably started inconsistent play. The intensity that was there before just was not the same. And it was not just noticeable to the fans of the team, but to the organization. But not only was the play not the same, neither was the coaching. There have been many questionable decisions that Fisher has made in terms of playing time, situational substitutions and timeout management that have made some cringe. Of course, he has never been a coach before at any level, so he is learning on the job. But even in knowing that, Fisher still seemed to not learn from some of the mistakes he was making. And with that, it became increasingly frustrating for some to watch their team consistently not make it happen when given the opportunities to do so. So with that happening, the Knicks had to make a move. The team’s future being led by Fisher was going nowhere fast. And now it seems like he may have been the coach that was sacrificed before any type of success happens for the Knicks again.
Kurt Rambis is the current replacement, but many feel the interim head coach is just holding the position for someone else. There has been one prominent name mentioned after Fisher was fired and that name is former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. The long-time assistant coach in the NBA got his big break when becoming the head coach of the Chicago Bulls in 2010. Thibs, as he is called by many that played for him, was a solid coach in the NBA and got the most out of his players in the Chicago. But unfortunately, he and management in Chicago could not get along and he was released from his job there this past offseason. Some thought he would have gotten another NBA coaching job just as quick as he got fired, but that was not the case. Instead, Thibodeau took some time off and examined the coaching scene. And with the job opening coming up in New York, there has been some talk that Thibs is interested. There are reports out there that he has always wanted to be the head coach of the New York Knicks. And with who all is available out there, who is more qualified for the job than Thibodeau? He took the Chicago Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals in his first year, was the fastest coach in NBA history to 100 victories and also was able to help the Bulls survive the loss of point guard Derrick Rose year after year and still have them be successful. Thibodeau is a tireless worker and has been known to get the best out of his teams. But how does he fit in New York?
Thibodeau has been known as a great defensive coach. He was the mastermind behind the defense in Boston during their resurgence with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett back in 2007-2008. If he is hired as the coach of the Knicks, defense is one aspect that will be better. And for Carmelo Anthony, it will probably be the hardest he has been asked to work defensively. The Knicks and their effort on that end will not be compromised and Thibodeau will make sure of that. And with Porzingis there on the team, it will be scary how good a defender he could make the 7’3” rookie forward. But for as much as he could help the defense, Thibodeau would not help them offensively. For his entire time in Chicago, he was criticized time and time again about his offense. Even when he had Derrick Rose, the offense was deemed unimaginative and rudimentary by many. And the lack of diversity in the offense led to the Bulls being one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA for much of his time there in Chicago. With that knowledge being known, the Knicks would be an even uglier mess offensively with Thibodeau there as the head coach. The Knicks currently sit as one of the worst offenses in efficiency and points per game over the last two seasons. With a star player that isn’t exactly the picture of efficiency and Thibs not exactly known to have much movement in his offense, the Knicks would be an eyesore on the offensive end. And in this day and time in the NBA, you have to score to win. The days of Jeff Van Gundy having a physical defensive team win games in New York is over. Bringing Thibs there would be flashing back to that time in Knicks basketball with even less offensive talent.
The Knicks knew they had gone as far as they could with Fisher as the head coach. It was apparent when they lost nine of their last ten and the team looked like they had lost their direction. But in hiring the next head coach, Phil Jackson has to know this could be a job-defining move. If he hired Thibodeau, then he is hiring a fierce competitor as a head coach that will not allow anything but the best effort every night. But on the flipside, Thibs is not the guy to help them be better offensively. He may be a better head coach than Fisher, but he is not the guy to give them what they need. And imagine Thibodeau trying to run the Triangle offense in New York without really knowing it. If he has to do that, then you could really have an offensive mess on your hands.