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Hornacek Hiring May Signify New Power Structure in New York

New York Knicks WallpaperKnicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson publicly revealed some of the qualifications he was searching for when selecting the next head coach in New York.

During his 34 years in the NBA as a player, assistant coach, head coach and team president, Jackson has accumulated 13 championship rings, 1,155 victories as a coach (sixth most in NBA history) and his winning percentage as a coach is 70.4 percent, the highest of anyone with 200 or more career games.

The extensive resume wasn’t enough to provide him free rein to select a coach for the Knicks for the second time since taking over control of the organizations front office in 2014.

Jackson revealed he was intending to hire someone already within his circle when tabbing a full time replacement for Derek Fisher, with the intention of establishing the triangle offense in New York.

The appointment of Jeff Hornacek doesn’t fill any of those objectives.

Hornacek never played for Jackson during his 14-year NBA career or his six seasons as an assistant or head coach.

Fisher was the handpicked selection that he was forced to fire midseason for his struggles on the court and distracting actions away from it.

Nine days after retiring as a player, Fisher was appointed the 25th head coach in Knicks history, as his success as a player with Jackson was expected to transform New York into a championship contender.

Knicks team owner James Dolan (left) and president of basketball operations Phil Jackson (right) may be nearing the end of their professional relationship.
Knicks team owner James Dolan (left) and president of basketball operations Phil Jackson (right) may be nearing the end of their professional relationship.

New York set franchise records for fewest victories (17) and lowest winning percentage (20.7 percent) during Fisher’s initial campaign.

Instead of devising ways improving the worst offense in the league, Fisher was involved in an altercation with Memphis forward Matt Barnes, after beginning a relationship with Barnes’ estranged wife.

The Knicks win total improved, nearly doubling, last season, but it wasn’t enough for Fisher to remain coach.

New York finished with the third worst record in the Eastern Conference and the offense ranked third worst in the NBA, averaging 98.4 points per game.

Jackson was intent on hiring Luke Walton, the replacement for Warriors coach Steve Kerr that went 39-4 to begin the season, only to see him ultimately agree to coach the Lakers.

David Blatt and Frank Vogel emerged as potential candidates, but it was Hornacek that emerged as the replacement for interim coach Kurt Rambis.

Hornacek was tabbed to modernize New York’s offense, abandoning the triangle offense for a more uptempo pace.

During his time in Phoenix, the 53-year-old finished as runner-up for Coach of the Year honors in 2013-14, as his team finished eight in offensive rating.

Numerous injuries, along with friction with Markieff Morris eventually led the Suns to dismiss him 49 games into the 2015-16 campaign.

Jeff Hornacek posted a record of 101-112 during his two plus seasons as head coach in Phoenix.
Jeff Hornacek posted a record of 101-112 during his two plus seasons as head coach in Phoenix.

New York’s roster, featuring the front court trio of Robin Lopez, Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony is the opposite of the guard heavy rotation Hornacek employed in Phoenix.

For each of the past four seasons, the Knicks ranked last in fast break points per game, while the Suns were first, third and eighth under Hornacek.

Without a selection in next month’s draft, the Knicks can only improve their roster in free agency, as the team enters summer with nearly $19 million available.

The top priority will be to find an established point guard capable of running Hornacek’s fast paced offense.

The point guard position was not an intricate part of Jackson’s offenses during his coaching stints with the Bulls and Lakers.

Instead, his teams relied heavily on the capabilities of Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, two of the greatest shooting guards in league history, to both score and distribute the ball.

Anthony is one of the greatest pure scorers in the league, but his scoring production has declined each of the past four seasons, as injuries and an underwhelming supporting cast around him has allowed defenses to prevent him from getting open looks.

The challenge ahead for both Hornacek and Jackson will be convincing free agents to join them in New York and creating an offense capable of putting up 100 points a night, something the team hasn’t accomplished in three years.

Only Jackson may already be plotting his next job.

Jackson has the ability to opt out of his contract after next season, and rumors have already circulated about his return to the Lakers.

By choosing a coach outside of the tight-knit circle Jackson has created, the Knicks may be preparing for his departure.

About Brendan Galella

Brendan Galella founded Shatter the Glass to make the NBA even more accessible to basketball fans. Composing player rankings, team evaluations and intriguing observations, he hopes to turn every reader into a dedicated and educated basketball follower.

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