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  • Rumor Round-Up: Who’s Auditioning to Be New York’s Next Head Coach?

Rumor Round-Up: Who’s Auditioning to Be New York’s Next Head Coach?

Photo: Ben Margot/AP
A recap of the names floating around the NBA-sphere who could be considered or confirmed to meet with the Knicks’ front office about the open head coach position.

The New York Knicks, fresh off of another 50-loss season, are in the middle of their latest head-coach search—America’s worst reality show competition.

A few names have already been tossed around as the successor to the recently ousted Jeff Hornacek to take over the mantle as coach. Former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt is one, and an interesting name considering his and Steve Mills shared Ivy League connections dating back to Princeton in the 1970s–80s. Former Miami assistant and Memphis head coach David Fizdale lost the veterans in the locker room only a dozen games into the 2017–18 season, but many around the league respect the long-time NBA coach’s credentials and work ethic—maybe a younger team would suit Fizdale better.

Other names to have come into the discussion include former Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy, his ESPN broadcast partner (and former Warriors head coach) Mark Jackson, Villanova coach Jay Wright, and former NBA All-Star—now Toronto G League affiliate Raptors 905—Jerry Stackhouse.

With the names swirling around, let’s round-up the rumors and make a sense of confirmed mutual interest between the Knicks and head coach candidates.


David Fizdale

Fizdale plans to meet with Knicks brass this week about the head coach vacancy in New York, as reported by the NY Daily News. While there seems to be an interest between New York’s front office and the former Grizzlies head coach, Fiz plans on meeting with the Phoenix Suns—who possess the best odds to land the no. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft—as well.

Fiz was in Oakland as recently as Saturday—hanging around Oracle Arena in person to watch Game 1 of the Warriors-Spurs series.

David Blatt

The EuroLeague-winning coach was last in the NBA in 2016, fired mid-season and replaced with now-Cleveland top man Tyronn Lue after Blatt coached the Cavs to their first Finals appearance in team history. Since then, Blatt has been coaching Darüşşafaka S.K., the Turkey Super League basketball squad.

Blatt has history with the Knicks; he attended Princeton University in the late-1970s, playing point guard for the Tigers on the same team as Knicks team president Steve Mills and vice president of player development Craig Robinson.

The NY Daily News says the Knicks are expected to contact Blatt about the job.

Mark Jackson

Jackson’s history with New York is considerably storied. The Brooklyn native was drafted by the Knicks in 1987 after attending St. John’s University and won Rookie of the Year honors in 1987–88. After two stints with the team totaling seven seasons and 500 games, Mark Jackson became second in franchise history in assists and first in assists per game (8.0). Jackson would often find himself facing the Knicks, too, in the playoffs while he played for the Indiana Pacers.

At the conclusion of his 17-season NBA career, Jackson was hired by Golden State as head coach. Jackson’s tenure as Warriors game manager was marked with successes and off-the-court troubles. Jackson took a raw Warriors roster and solidified a core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Festus Ezeli as a legitimate playoff team—something then uncommon for the Oakland team. Despite taking the previously mediocre Warriors to the conference semi-finals, Jackson’s time in Golden State was mired in scandals and disillusionment. Jackson was reportedly at odds at times with Golden State’s front office and assistant coaches, along with rumors of questionable motivation tactics for his players (like telling Ezeli the front office didn’t want him to succeed). Jackson had alienated his players and pushed his superiors out of his purview. Elsewhere, Jackson found scandal with an extortion scheme perpetrated by an exotic dancer—it was revealed Jackson made payments to prevent the release of sensitive material of his extramarital affair. Jackson was fired in 2014, which made way for Steve Kerr in Golden State, whom spurned Phil Jackson’s Knicks and would win a championship with the Warriors the following year.

According to the New York Post, the Knicks have indeed reached out to their point guard from the late 1980s.

ESPN reports that Jackson is among Blatt, Fizdale, and Jerry Stackhouse as the “top candidates” for the vacancy.

Jeff Van Gundy

Similarly, Jackson’s colleague from ESPN’s NBA coverage, former Knicks head coach, is another consideration for the job. A return to the New York job would be a long-time coming reunion. Until recently amended, Madison Square Garden’s in-game entertainment use to fail to acknowledge the former coach who took the Knicks to the ’99 Finals when he sat courtside commentating games. The Pat Riley pupil took over the Knicks in 1996 after Don Nelson’s failed head-coaching stint and guided a Knicks team known for tough defense—something far off from the current incarnation of these Knickerbockers.

Van Gundy last coached for Houston in 2007 and has since color-commentated for ESPN with MSG play-by-play man Mike Breen and Van Gundy’s former player Mark Jackson. Also in the news, Van Gundy backed his pal Jackson for the Knicks job, although the former Knicks head coach did not dismiss interest in the vacancy, too.

Jay Wright

Wright has led the Villanova Wildcats to two NCAA championships in three years. The Wooden Legends of Coaching honoree is expected to be reached out for the head coach position, but the Knicks shouldn’t expect the accomplished coach to leave college.

Other names in the mix, but also not
  • Frank Vogel, who was recently dismissed as head coach of the Orlando Magic, is in the open market now. As of now, though, the Knicks do not seem to have interest in hiring the former Indiana Pacers and Magic coach. Knicks general manager Scott Perry was the assistant general manager with Orlando when the team hired Vogel as coach two years ago.
  • Steve Clifford, the ousted Hornets coach, coached Long Island university Adelphi in the ’90s before joining Jeff Van Gundy as a Knicks assistant. Newsday reports Clifford is among others in the crowded candidate pool, but his name isn’t an immediate frontrunner for the position.
  • Jerry Stackhouse, coached the Raptors 905 G League team to the Finals, falling to the Austin Spurs. Stackhouse has been contacted by the Knicks, according to Newsday.
  • Mike Woodson, another former Knicks head coach—now Clippers assistant to Doc Rivers—has been confirmed by ESPN to meet with New York about the job.

This post has seen been updated.

Managing Editor of The Knicks Wall. Still not over the ’94 Finals. Andy Bernard levels of Cornell love.

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