On Friday, after much speculation and many rumors, the New York Knicks fired head coach David Fizdale. The firing happened after the Knicks lost by 37, at home, to the Denver Nuggets, dropping their overall record to 4-18.
While Fizdale hardly did a good job with in his year-plus with the Knicks, he’s also was far from their only problem. Or far from their biggest problem.
After dumping All-Star Kristaps Porzingis a year ago, and freeing up cap space to make a run at Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the Knicks came up laughably empty in free agency. Instead of MVP candidates like Durant, Irving, or Kawhi Leonard, the Knicks big catches were Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, and Marcus Morris Sr.
Not only are those three a few dozen tiers below the Durants of the world, but they all play power forward. On a team that already had power forward/center Taj Gibson, and rising young center Mitchell Robinson.
The roster is bizarre, the vision is ludicrous, and the situation - with good or bad coaching - is simply bad. The ownership is, for lack of a stronger word, dysfunctional.
And Steve Kerr knows it.
In 2014, when the Golden State Warriors were looking for a head coach to replace Mark Jackson, the Knicks were also on the prowl, having recently fired Mike Woodson (who remains the team’s only coach since Jeff Van Gundy to compile a winning record with the team).
The Knicks were heavily interested in Kerr, and the writing seemed on the wall. After all, the team was, at the time, overseen by Phil Jackson, who had coached Steve Kerr on the Chicago Bulls.
Working under a legend, and his former coach, for an iconic franchise, in the basketball mecca? It was hard to envision Kerr opting for the Warriors over that.
Instead, Kerr shocked everyone, and signed on with Golden State. He cited a desire to coach Steph Curry, and a wish to stay near his San Diego-based family, as the primary reasons. But were it not for the optics, he surely would have mentioned Knicks owner James Dolan as part of the reasoning.
Kerr made that clear before Friday’s game against the Chicago Bulls. Talking to reporters about Fizdale’s firing, Kerr made it very clear that he would have suffered the same fate had he opted to patrol the sidelines of Madison Square Garden.
Asked about the “what if” of nearly joining the Knicks, Kerr stated, “If I had gone to New York, that would’ve been me like three years ago. I’m well aware of that. . . . I think I made the right choice.”
Steve Kerr on David Fizdale’s firing and the occasional what if, on days like today, as in: What if he took the Knicks job instead of the Warriors one? “That would’ve been me three years ago.” pic.twitter.com/W7Rrc3TTcF— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 6, 2019
Kerr also added some words of support for Fizdale, while praising the Warriors, saying, “He’s a hell of a coach, and as we know in this business, it’s extremely fragile, and your job is dependent on a lot of things when you’re a coach in this league. Number one, probably the talent that you’re able to coach. But just as importantly is the strength of the organization, and the group around you. It takes a really strong organization to help coaches and help players get through difficult times. So I’m very blessed to have that group around me here, and I know not every coach does. It’s a tough league.”
The Coach of the Year is certainly right. While he deserves heaps of credit for the job he’s done with the Warriors, there’s no chance he’d be sitting on three championships had he gone to New York, and opted for Dolan over Joe Lacob; Phil Jackson, Scott Perry, and Steve Mills over Bob Myers; and the rotating crop of role players over Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant.
While Kerr has gone on to take the Warriors to five straight titles, the Knicks have gone in the opposite direction. After missing out on Kerr, they hired former NBA player Derek Fisher, who went 40-96 before getting the ax. After interim coach Kurt Rambis led New York to a 9-19 record, the Knicks started 2016 with Jeff Hornacek, who lasted all of two years (better than Fisher or Fizdale!), going 60-104.
New York opened last year with Fizdale, who finished his Knicks tenure with a franchise-worst record of 21-83.