The Knicks have been trying to start a new era for the better part of a decade. There's been zero success in New York since 2013 when the Knicks were coming off three straight playoff appearances. With Leon Rose in tow and a new front office getting established, the Knicks are going to start over yet again and try to build a consistent winner.
So who's my pick for the next Knicks' head coach? It should come as no surprise given the above that I want someone new. But I'm going to cheat a little and pick a few names. NBA head coaching experience is important, but we've also seen coaches come up short at certain stops, get another chance somewhere else, and repeat the process. I want the Knicks to interview all the potential first-time head coaches on their list and select the best one. Rose has his pick of Becky Hammon, Ime Udoka, Will Hardy, Pat Delany, Jamahl Mosley, and Chris Fleming.
I get the feeling that Rose and some Knicks fans would scoff at this idea but hear me out. Look at the team's two head coaches before Mike Miller. Jeff Hornacek and David Fizdale had uneven tenures in both Phoenix and Memphis respectively before coming to the Knicks. They both failed in the Big Apple. Even Mike D'Antoni, who had success with the Suns before coming to New York, was eventually fired. This isn't saying that Tom Thibodeau or Kenny Atkinson would definitely follow the same path. And sure, the Knicks have had their fair share of bad first-time head coaches (Derek Fisher was truly terrible). But sometimes you need to start fresh. Thibodeau hasn't had a spotless career and Atkinson's is a small sample size. Grab someone new and mold them like Erik Spoelstra.
It's easier said than done, but with Rose in tow, it could make the perfect combination. For so long, James Dolan has tried to make splashy, big-name hires. He doesn't need one of those, particularly now that he has Rose. The Knicks can hire an up-and-coming coach that focuses purely on getting this franchise back on track, while Rose uses his connections as a former agent to try and make deals and coax stars to the Garden.
I'm a huge college basketball fan, and this coaching idea has me pulling from the NCAA. Every year, assistants of some of the best head coaches in the country get hired for head coaching jobs (think Texas Tech's Chris Beard or Virginia's Tony Bennett). Generally, they do pretty well! Sure, it's much different coaching a mid-major than at Madison Square Garden, but some of these candidates are in similar situations having learned under some really good head coaches. Hammon, Udoka, and Hardy were all taught by one of the best of all time, Gregg Popovich. Mosley is on the staff of an NBA champion and proven winner in Rick Carlisle. Even Delany has gotten to coach with Steve Clifford, a guy who's been able to get the most out of little talent in Charlotte and Orlando. Hiring new faces from stable organizations is practiced more for front office members than coaches these days. It's time for the Knicks to try it.
I, like many other media members, don't know a ton about these assistant coaches. There's only so much information out there on them. But Rose gets the chance to interview all of them extensively and pick who he deems is the best. If I had to choose, I'd lean toward Hammon or Udoka, who have had years of training from Pop and aren't as young as the wunderkind Hardy. Popovich is a top-three coach of all time, and anyone he's taught knows basketball. Picking from his coaching tree has a high probability of leading to success. But if Rose truly thinks one of Mosley, Fleming, or Delany is the perfect fit, I'll trust him. (I wouldn't even mind keeping interim coach Mike Miller, who was a new coach before this season and got the team to improve).
Rose has put himself in prime position to hire a solid head coach due to the long list of candidates. While they're all good coaches in their own right, it's going to take a special person to lead the Knicks out of the basement. Rose now has the tough task of analyzing his options and finding that person. It's the perfect time to take a leap and hire a new face.