The clock will strike midnight for Jeff Hornacek and the Knicks at approximately 10:20 p.m. on Wednesday in Cleveland. Once the season expires another offseason of zero playoff games and endless speculation begins immediately.
The first order of business, of course, is Hornacek’s future. He’s under contract for one more season and although Knicks management has given no indication on whether Hornacek will return or be dismissed the consensus around the league is that Wednesday’s finale against the Cavs will be Hornacek’s last as head coach.
Hired by Phil Jackson and Steve Mills, Hornacek’s likely removal would open the door for the club to hire Mark Jackson, Doc Rivers, David Fizdale, David Blatt, Jerry Stackhouse or Jeff Van Gundy. A long-shot candidate, according to a team source, is Craig Robinson, who currently serves as the Knicks VP of player and organization development. He’s also a former college coach. Don’t rule anything out.
There are plenty of names to choose from but does changing the coach change anything, including the toxic culture at the Garden? The Knicks issue is talent, or lack thereof, as well as getting their key players healthy. Kristaps Porzingis has appeared in just 48 games this season. Tim Hardaway Jr. has played in 57. The Knicks’ top two players haven’t been healthy.
Knicks lose final home game of season, fall to LeBron James, Cavs
That’s not on the coach.
Jarrett Jack, a true professional, was the starting point guard for much of the first half of the season. Then the Knicks tried Emmanuel Mudiay, Trey Burke and Frank Ntilikina. The latter is a 19-year-old rookie and the other two are former lottery picks trying to salvage their careers. All three have something to offer, but in a guard-driven league the Knicks backcourt is not in the upper echelon. Not even close.
That’s also not on the coach.
The Knicks were 17-14 at one point and their performance on the road, especially early on was troubling. But for the most part the players never stopped competing for the head coach. The Knicks field-goal percentage is currently the highest since 2000 and they’ve recorded more assists than any Knicks team since 1994-95.
Patrick Reed wears green jacket while at Knicks-Cavs game
In fact, that season the Knicks under Pat Riley recorded 2,055 assists. This year’s Knicks have 1,882 assists, marking just the fourth time in 23 seasons that a Knicks team has recorded as least 1,800 assists. The Knicks did it twice under Van Gundy and once under Don Chaney.
If sharing is caring, that reflects well on the head coach.
But it likely won’t matter. Scott Perry is the new general manager and everyone wants to bring in their guy. Phil Jackson did it despite the fact that Mike Woodson won a playoff series and had the Knicks playing well in the final six weeks of his last season as head coach.
Continuity isn’t a bad thing but very few clubs exercise patience. Portland’s Terry Stotts was in danger of being canned a year ago. Same with Philadelphia’s Brett Brown. But with a healthy roster and some key additions both coaches have their teams in third place overall in the Western and Eastern Conference respectively.
LeBron James reminds Knicks why he’s the ‘King’
A case can be made to keep Hornacek. Two players, Hardaway and Courtney Lee, recently presented compelling arguments to do just that.
However, Mills and Perry have both had opportunities to weigh in on Hornacek’s future, but they’ve remained silent. If Hornacek is coming back or if there was a chance of him returning you’d have to believe the Knicks would be dropping hints.
That’s a bad sign for Hornacek, who had an offer to join the Golden State Warriors as a top assistant but instead took the Knicks job and was then forced against his better judgment to run the triangle offense. Then James Dolan fired Jackson, a new general manager was hired and the Knicks young players broke down.
We’ve seen this movie at the Garden before. Based on history, the Knicks will remove Hornacek but spin it as resignation. They’ll hire the next savior, hold a press conference to announce everyone is on the same page and the fans and media will eat it up.
LeBron on Knicks billboard after spending time with Oakley
But this is less about the coach and more about the roster. The next Knicks coach will learn that in a hurry.
Send a Letter to the Editor