Keidel: Knicks Need Stabililty At Coaching Position To Fix Their Historic Woes


So the Knicks fired David Fizdale, a proud man with a poor record, a head coach brought here to court the crop of high-priced free agents but was eventually left standing alone at the door to Madison Square Garden - once the most proud and prized building in sports that has since been reduced to a mausoleum of lost dreams and dead NBA seasons.  

The only reason the Garden is still valuable is its location. We've heard about humans hitting the genetic lottery. The Knicks hit the geographical lottery, their place in Midtown Manhattan now the lone reason for their relevance. The team and building have reduced Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown into losing coaches. With Isaiah Thomas it was a house of legal horrors, lawsuits, and myriad losses. Then they gave Phil Jackson $60 million and the job of turning this tanker around, yet he enjoyed fly fishing in Montana more than finding talent for his moribund basketball club.  

There was a time when MSG was the “Mecca of basketball,” a label that has long since expired. It was Michael Jordan's favorite place to visit, when fine players signed here as free agents, and when the Knicks, at least under Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy, were the hottest ticket in town. Those Knicks were not defined by stars but rather by their bruising defense and blue-collar work ethic. You might’ve beaten those Knicks once in a while, but you paid for it with a tax of sweat, blood, and the occasional black eye. 

The world west of the Hudson River may mistake us as white collar divas who don't get our hands dirty, but the money, marble and Madison Avenue are merely fruits of hard labor and harder laborers. The Warriors fit their fans and locale because clean jerseys, long jumpers and an allergy to elbows in the paint reflect the Silicon Valley ethos of brain over brawn. 

New York City, at its heart, was a hardscrabble, frostbitten walk to work, not a limo to a doorman to a penthouse. And the Knicks flew that flag for us, and for the Big Apple, which may not be the birthplace of buckets, but was the cradle of basketball for decades.

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In six seasons under Van Gundy, the Knicks won 34 playoff games. In the 19 years since, they have won seven playoff games. The Knicks won at least 50 games six times in ten years between Riley and JVG. They have won 50 games once in the 19 years since. They have posted their worst record in franchise history (17-65) twice in the last five years. And in an industry where stability is key to success, the Knicks have hired 13 head coaches since Van Gundy fled for more fertile pastures, including the current, interim coach: Mike Miller. 

Look at the most celebrated and successful clubs in American team sports and a sound, stable corporate ladder is essential. The New England Patriots have had one coach this century. The Pittsburgh Steelers have had three coaches in 50 years. The Spurs have had one since the late 1990s. The Yankees returned to glory once they stopped the managerial turnstile from spinning, and stuck with Joe Torre for 12 years.  

The Knicks have a conga line of coaches dancing through. They play musical chairs with management, all of which results in poor draft picks and second-tier free agent signings. With the increasing freedom and power among players, they can shape their careers and collaborate with other players to make instant powerhouses. This pour-and-stir style of stardom helped build the Miami Heat into a dynasty, it helped the Celtics win a title, and it helped Kevin Durant's migration to Oakland that made the Warriors one of the best squads in history. 

Yet when the Knicks hit this offseason with deep pockets and ample desperation, nary a star looked their way. Instead, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George gleefully tabbed the Clippers over the Knicks - a move that would have been unfathomable 20 years ago. 

There's a list of at least a dozen candidates for the head coaching gig once the season ends, from outsiders such as Jerry Stackhouse, Jay Wright and David Blatt, to more locally celebrated people like Patrick Ewing, Mark Jackson or Kenny Smith, to even the return of Van Gundy. 

If there's any chance the Knicks can be taken seriously again, they need a head coach who commands the room, and executives who can bag premium players. Respect goes a long way to finding relevance. The Knicks need a vision as much as their location if they are to dig their way out of their yearly dungeon under the NBA standings. And it will start with their next coach, assuming he wants the job. 

Follow Jason on Twitter: @JasonKeidel