The shortest-tenured Knicks coaches
Derek Fisher was fired by the New York Knicks on Monday after 136 games as head coach, making him the 15th coach in franchise history to last two or fewer seasons. Over the past 15 years, the team has struggled to find a long-term leader, cycling through eight different coaches including Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown, who enjoyed decorated careers.
Here are six of the shortest-tenured coaches in Knicks history.
Willis Reed, 1977–78
Reed, who had a legendary playing career with the Knicks, briefly tried his hand at coaching after his retirement. He was hired by the Knicks on March 9, 1977 when Red Holzman departed and was fired 14 games into the next season with a 49–47 record. New York then brought back Holzman for a few seasons before his retirement.
Reed would latch on with the Hawks as an assistant six years later and get another shot as head coach with the Nets in 1987.
Rick Pitino, 1987–89
Pitino took over a Knicks team that had won just 24 games in 1987–88 and led them to their first division title in almost 20 years in 1988–89. He resigned as coach on May 30, 1989 to take a job at the University of Kentucky.
“I wasn’t looking to get into professional basketball,” the 36-year-old Pitino said at the time. “I wanted to be a part of the turnaround here with the New York Knickerbockers. I wish it could have lasted longer, but you have to know who you are and I’m a college basketball coach and I think that’s where my heart is.”
Pitino would return to the NBA to coach the Celtics for four seasons before returning to coach in college basketball.
Don Nelson, 1995–96
Nelson, who won five titles as a player and was a three–time coach of the year, helped the Knicks to a 34–25 record before his firing in March of 1996. He went to management and proposed that the Knicks trade franchise big man Patrick Ewing and make a push for Shaquille O’Neal in free agency. The news got to Ewing, whose production under Nelson declined. The Knicks got rid of Nelson, and signed Ewing to a lucrative deal.
Lenny Wilkens, 2004–05
After he was hired in January of 2004, Wilkens coached the Knicks out to a 23–19 record. After starting the next season 17–22, the veteran head coach resigned from his post and would never coach again.
Larry Brown, 2005–06
Just one year after he won a championship with the Pistons, Brown was bought out by Detroit after he began to talk with other teams. He signed a five-year, $50 million deal with the Knicks, but only lasted one season after feuding with newly–acquired point guard Stephon Marbury and going just 23–59.
Isiah Thomas, 2006–08
When Brown was fired, Thomas, the team’s president of basketball operations, immediately took over. In two seasons, he earned a dismal 56–108 record and made headlines when he told players to intentionally commit hard fouls against Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets, igniting a brawl.