(Photo via usatoday.com)
The New York Knicks are having an identity crisis, plain and simple. Even when it seemed like they were starting to build chemistry and look more like a professional basketball team, as opposed to last year’s abysmal squad, they once again reminded all Knick fans that patience is a virtue. Heading into late January, the Knicks were right in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race at 22-22, but have since lost 10 of their last 11 games and fans are quickly losing interest. This rollercoaster season has now led to the firing of their head coach, Derek Fisher, and this leaves Phil Jackson with the entire weight of the Big Apple on his shoulders. His search for the Knicks new head coach is incredibly crucial for providing a foundation and direction for this team that will hopefully propel them from pretender to contender.
Phil Jackson can go in many directions with this coaching search, but he must choose wisely. We all know that the Godfather of the Triangle would love to hire someone who can implement that offense for their team, but that leaves only a few candidates in the running. These names include Luke Walton, Brian Shaw, or even their interim head coach Kurt Rambis, who will get a considerable shot at being promoted to head coach if he performs well in these last 30 games or so. However, if you open up the candidate search to those outside Jackson’s sphere of influence, then you can start talking about coaches such as Scott Brooks, Tom Thibodeau, or Mark Jackson to lead the Knicks roster. Above all else, Jackson has to make sure that whatever move he makes, that it is in coordination with the team’s future, which includes Latvian sensation Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis has been the one indication of hope for the future, and with Carmelo Anthony not getting any younger, there is no doubt that their priorities have to shift to the 7-footer with immense amounts of star potential. That is why I believe that Phil Jackson should hire someone without the triangle offense knowledge and instead give the job to someone who can launch the team into an exciting, new direction.
The Knicks, who do not have a first round pick in the 2016 draft, would love to upgrade their roster to complement the talent that Porzingis brings to the table. This becomes another wrinkle in Phil Jackson’s plans for another triangle-offense oriented coach. If the Knicks have ambitions of going after players like Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook in free agency, they will need a system that allows of these high-octane superstars to thrive, and the triangle does not help with that.
The triangle can certainly work in the NBA, but I do not think that the system particularly fits in New York. For one, they lack backcourt talent and guard play which is vital for the triangle. Also, while Melo is getting better at facilitating and involving his teammates, the ball still eventually sticks in his hands for far too long. To fit Porzingis’ skill set as well as Melo’s style of play, they need to operate under a more fast-paced and aggressive offense, a play-style that the triangle simply does not provide. Adding a coach with a different philosophy to offer, perhaps former Knicks assistant and defensive guru, Tom Thibodeau, the team can excel in different, more modern ways. The new coach, whoever it may be, must be able to generate excitement for the team’s future and make current Knicks and future Knicks through the draft or free agency buy in to the system, something that Derek Fisher simply was unable to do in New York.
– J. Yellin