First-year Knicks coach David Fizdale has been preaching the big picture whenever he talks about the latest Knicks’ loss or explains why his team has a hideous 10-36 record.
He has been preaching development and patience when talking about the young players that are playing for the Knicks. He made that publicly clear wins and losses are irrelevant.
His bosses have made it clear it was not about winning games by hiring Fizdale because if they were serious about winning this season, they would have showed it by hiring either Mike Budenholzer or Dwane Casey this past summer. Budenholzer and Casey are not the type of head coaches that want to tank games, so they were not qualified for the job.
Fizdale was more than happy to take the job despite knowing the losses were going to be on his coaching record. He hasn’t complained about his situation since he feels he will be coaching the Knicks when Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier, Mitchell Robinson, Damyean Dotson and next year’s draft pick become stars.
He shouldn’t be so sure. Knicks CEO James Dolan and Knicks president of basketball operations Steve Mills are never afraid to change coaches when they feel like it, even though they said those guys would have all the time to lead the Knicks back on track. It’s what they do as Mike D’Antoni, Donnie Walsh, Mike Woodson, Derek Fisher, Phil Jackson and Jeff Hornacek found out the painful way about how business is done at the Garden. Oh, and they are not afraid to trash their head coaches and general managers once they fire them.
Fizdale is obviously not in danger of losing his job. Not when he is doing his job by losing games. Still, questions should be asked about him eventually. No one coaches for life if the losing continues. It never works that way.
From watching the Knicks coach, he hasn’t been impressive as head coach. None of the young players made progress this season, and that’s on the head coach since he was touted for being a player development guy. Knox has not showed anyone that he is not ready to play in the NBA, and Frank Ntilikina is a lost cause. Robinson, Dotson and Trier have showed next to nothing.
Those guys have received playing time more than they really deserve, and they haven’t evolved or grown up to be productive NBA players yet. It’s on the coach to figure out a way to develop these guys. If Budenholzer or Casey was coaching the Knicks, there’s no way these guys would be getting worse. They are either getting better or they are not getting playing time.
The least these guys can do is get better defensively. It does not require talent to do so. It’s about effort and teaching, and so far Fizdale failed in getting them to play defense or at least try to. This is why there should be doubts about the Knicks head coach moving forward.
Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson has been lauded for his work with Spencer Dinwiddie, D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen and his ability to have the Nets compete and play defense going back to last season. It’s now paying off based on them winning 18 of their last 23 games to save their season after blowing a 23-point lead in an 114-112 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This is the least Fizdale can do with the Knicks, and he failed to do his job this season.
Maybe the Knicks know more about Fizdale than the general public knows. They had to know he was not that great of a coach. Why else would he be hired over other qualified candidates?
It’s easy to question their intent, and it’s easy to wonder if he is going to be there when the big picture arrives.
This is by far the worst season the Knicks ever had, and that’s saying something since they have provided awful seasons under Dolan’s failed stewardship and they were coming off a forgettable 17-win season in Derek Fisher’s first season few years ago. There’s nothing positive about this. It’s obvious this is by design.
Eventually, Fizdale is going to have to show he has the chops to be a NBA head coach in New York. We don’t really know if he can be. By their own admission, the Knicks really don’t know what he is as coach since winning is not a priority for them at this stage.
This isn’t encouraging. Even he has to know this despite playing the role of a caretaker and a company man. He had to hope the Knicks would do more than just win 10 games by now.
They are on pace to win 17 games just like they were in the 2014-2015 season. This is worse than that season because there is actually talent on the team.
Fizdale gets a mulligan for this season, but then again, it may be no better than the dreaded vote of confidence knowing that his time is ticking.
That’s the life of a Knicks coach.