Before the New York Knicks do anything to prepare for this year, they have a vacancy to fill: Head Coach. It makes sense to eye a top down approach to team building, as different coaches excel with different assets. While the Knicks haven’t had much success with the coaching position over the last few years, they’ve been especially pitiful under president Phil Jackson. In his short tenure, New York has been managed by perhaps two of the worst coaches in franchise history: Derek Fisher and Kurt Rambis. Both players were selected by Jackson, albeit the latter was just an interim coach.
With Indiana foolishly letting go of Frank Vogel, the Knicks would be dumb to not make a strong play for the former Pacer. Vogel is a strong defensive coach, which would fit both the franchise and their president. Both of New York’s most successful eras were founded on defense, and for all the talk of the triangle coach Phil Jackson also kept things tight on that end of the floor as well.
But being a Knicks’ fan, you probably know Vogel to New York isn’t going to happen. The basketball gods will prevent Vogel from coming anywhere near the MSG home bench. For a few years/decades the Knicks have not been allowed “to acquire the best.” We did not get LeBron. We did not get Thibodeau. We did not draft Curry. We got Phil Jackson, the player and the GM, but not the coach.
What the Knicks can do is develop from scratch. It’s not an often occurrence, but it seems to be the Knicky-way. We get Jeremy Lin, John Starks, Mozgov, Jeff Van Gundy, Oakley, and Mase. (We don’t always keep those gems, but that’s another story.) New York is the NBA city of molding dirt into pottery.
So when Vogel signs with another team, I have Plan B for the Knicks.
Plan B is a professional that never played in the NBA. This player left college as the all time leading scorer in their conference. “B” played professionally, but never in the NBA. Despite that, Plan B had a long (16 seasons) and strong career. A 6 time All Star, First and Second Team honors, stints overseas, and even a bronze Olympic medal.
There are hints of being a well rounded and focused individual, receiving a Sportsmanship Award one year and a career free throw percentage of 89.7%. You don’t get just shy of 90% on your free throws without dedication to the game, attention to detail, and a desire to succeed. All traits that are needed as an NBA head coach. A torn ACL derailed B’s career, so they ventured into coaching. An NBA assistant and with only summer league experience as a head coach, B has earned high praise from one of the best coaches in the league.
When Vogel goes elsewhere, New York will still be without a coach. Jackson might stick with Kurt Rambis. He might reach out to grab Byron Scott, Brian Shaw, or David Blatt. I don’t see an upside to any of these coaches other than Blatt. And even he has a weird taint to him given his time in Cleveland.
Before the Knicks settle for mediocre, I think they should take a look into someone that has the potential to be a good coach. I think they should give Becky Hammon a call.