Roundtable: Who should coach Knicks?
SI.com’s NBA writers debate the biggest question of the day. Today, we examine …
Who should be the next head coach of the New York Knicks?
Chris Mannix: Fred Hoiberg. It's almost inexplicable that a coach with the résumé of Phil Jackson doesn't have a Dean Smith-like coaching tree, but he doesn't. And outside of Brian Shaw -- who publicly said he wasn't interested in leaving Denver -- there are no Jackson-connected names out there. But there is Hoiberg, a respected NBA player who went on to become a respected NBA executive before becoming a respected (and successful) college coach. Hoiberg runs an NBA-style, up-tempo offense at Iowa State and he is experienced enough to know what needs to be tweaked to make it work at the next level. As for the famed triangle, consider this: How many coaches besides Jackson have had success running it? The Knicks shouldn't be pursuing the biggest name or the coach who will run exactly what Jackson tells him. They should be chasing the best possible coach, and Hoiberg is it.
Chris Ballard: Phil Jackson. The phrasing of the question here is important -- who should be the next coach? Well, what I want out of the next Knicks coach is someone who makes what should be a miserable season a lot more interesting. And for that, nothing would top Jackson tapping himself for the gig now that Steve Kerr has spurned him for Golden State. Sure, there are plenty of ex-Lakers to choose from -- Kurt Rambis, Derek Fisher and so on. But how great would it be to see Jackson lumbering down to a courtside chair to try to work his magic with this group? Forget all those rings in Chicago and Los Angeles; winning with this Knicks roster would be his career-defining moment. It won't happen, of course, but it would be fascinating. And he'd have all the material he needs for his next book.
Phil Taylor: Derek Fisher. Sure, it would seem like they were settling for Steve Kerr Lite, but Fisher really makes the most sense. The Knicks want the full Phil Jackson experience, which requires a coach well-versed not just in the triangle offense, but also in Jackson's overall basketball philosophy. Having won five titles as a player under Jackson, Fisher is one of a small list of viable candidates who fit that description, and one of even fewer who wouldn't seem like a retread (like former Jackson assistants Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons or Frank Hamblen). As the former head of the players' union, Fisher knows how to be a leader, but as a career-long role player, he also knows how to follow orders, which he would have to do working under Jackson. He has no previous coaching experience, but after Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson and now Kerr, that hardly seems to be a deal-breaker anymore, and Fisher's new Knicks boss could surround him with a high-level group of veteran assistants. There are other intriguing candidates out there, like Fred Hoiberg and Kevin Ollie, but if the Knicks aren't going to hire a Phil Jackson acolyte, what was the point of hiring Phil Jackson?
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Richard Deitsch: Kevin Ollie. Given my first choice for every NBA opening (Hubie Brown) is sadly retired and my second choice (Jeff Van Gundy) is unlikely to return to the bench as well, Phil Jackson should look to a neighboring state and pluck Kevin Ollie from UConn. What Ollie did this season with the Huskies will go down as one of the great coaching jobs. He clearly gets the most out of players and he has a unique NBA pedigree that I believe makes him perfect to deal with any type of player. Ollie played for 12 teams in a 13-year NBA career, along with two years in the CBA. He earned everything he got in the league as an undrafted player, tutored stars such as LeBron James as a veteran and has experience with nearly every offensive and defensive system in the NBA. At 41, he’s only going to get better as a coach, but he’s still young enough to relate to his players. This is your guy, Zen Master.
Matt Dollinger: Mark Jackson. After losing out on Steve Kerr, Phil Jackson is reportedly open to broadening his horizons and considering a coach who isn't loyal to the triangle. That's great news, considering as many coaches run the triangle offense as the the Picket Fence. If Jackson is looking to save some face, make a splashy hire and bring in a proven NBA coach, there's one man who stands above the rest of the candidates: Mark Jackson. The former Knick and St. John's graduate is coming off a 51-win season with the Warriors and a Game 7 loss to the Clippers in the first round. He has a thick enough skin to handle the New York media and isn't married to an offensive system, meaning Phil will likely be able to incorporate a bit of his triangle tactics. Mark Jackson fell out of favor in Golden State over personality clashes with the front office, but if there's one thing we know about the Zen Master, it's that he has a way of bringing people together (remember Kobe and Shaq?) in order to win.
Ben Golliver: Derek Fisher. The toughest thing for Phil Jackson and the Knicks at this point is the uncertainty surrounding Carmelo Anthony's free agency. Failing to close the deal with Steve Kerr doesn't exactly inspire confidence in Jackson's ability to keep Anthony, especially considering his talk about wanting Anthony to take a pay cut. Waiting to hire a coach until after Anthony re-signs or bolts would put the Knicks into an extended limbo, so the best move is to hedge their bets by targeting a respected soon-to-be-ex-player who should have the ability to get along with Anthony if he stays while also having the requisite up-and-coming mentality to lead a rebuild should he go. Fisher has spent years and years (so many years) playing alongside the likes of Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, so he should understand how to communicate with Anthony and build an efficient offense around him. Sharing a philosophy with Jackson is critical, too, and their shared time with the Lakers should be considered a big plus as they set about turning over the scrap heap that is the Knicks' roster.
Chris Johnson: Phil Jackson. Isn’t it obvious? The man the Knicks signed to a massive contract to be president should be manning the sidelines. Jackson’s track record is unimpeachable and he was reportedly interested in becoming a coach again as recently as November 2012. Building this dreadful team into a winner would be a new type of challenge for Jackson. The Knicks are short on cap flexibility and young talent, and could lose their best player, Carmelo Anthony, in free agency this summer. There would probably be a few lean years in the short term, to say the least. But with Jackson’s pedigree, the Knicks may be able to lure a high-profile free agent once the contracts of Andrea Bargnani, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire come off the books after next season. The 2015 free-agent class includes LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Goran Dragic and Rajon Rondo. There’s a certain cachet that comes with 11 championship rings.
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