The New York Knicks head coach position has been vacant since Mike Woodson was fired in late April. Team president Phil Jackson's first choice for the job, Steve Kerr, spurned his mentor for the same position with the Golden State Warriors. Jackson is opening up the search to more candidates.
A prior history with Jackson is preferred, though not mandatory. Jackson was considered an unconventional hire when Jerry Krause tabbed him as the Bulls coach in 1989, and it would not be shocking if the Zen Master reached outside the presumed list of candidates for the Knicks' next coach.
However, Jackson has expressed a preference for hiring somebody who he has history with, via Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.
Jackson demonstrated through his pursuit of Kerr, and acknowledgement that Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher is on his list of candidates, via Ian Begley, that coaching experience is not a priority.
In fact, he went so far as to say there is a certain appeal to a candidate without experience, via Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal.
Applicants should have a working knowledge of the Triangle Offense. Upon taking the job with the Knicks, Jackson stated that he wants the team to have a particular offensive system, via Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk.
He did not specify what that system would be, though sources have suggested that he would prefer for the Knicks to use the Triangle Offense that he had so much success with in Chicago and Los Angeles, via Al Iannazzone of newsday.com.
Candidates should possess excellent leadership skills. A successful basketball coach commands the respect of his players, convinces them to buy into his system and holds them accountable when they fail to live up to his standards on and off the court.
Woodson preached accountability, but he often enabled his players' lack of effort and poor judgment, particularly J.R. Smith, whose antics were a distraction for the majority of the 2013-14 season. The Knicks players admitted to Jackson that they did not buy into Woodson's system, via Begley.
The coach’s primary duties will include implementing offensive and defensive systems, game management, player development and establishing a winning culture built on hard work and accountability.
New York did not operate as a cohesive unit this season. Offensively, the Knicks relied too heavily on isolation basketball and lacked player and ball movement. Individuals were lazy on defense, routinely switching men rather than taking pride in stopping somebody, and the team never formulated an effective strategy against the pick-and-roll.
Woodson juggled the rotation throughout the season, and the team was unable to replicate the chemistry they exhibited the year before. Injuries were a significant factor, though Woodson exacerbated the problem by alternating between a small and large lineup. The next coach must select a rotation and stick with it, allowing the players to become accustomed to their roles and figure out how to work together.
The next coach will also be tasked will the responsibility of player development, something the Knicks have not done much of over the past dozen years. Management habitually traded draft picks and young players for veterans who they believed could help them win immediately.
However, the Knicks owner appears to have changed course. Prior to the 2013-14 season, the Knicks owner placed an emphasis on developing young talent, via Begley, and Woodson filled out the roster with youngsters Toure’ Murry and Jeremy Tyler, instead of the aging veterans of years past.
New York has failed to properly develop shooting guard Iman Shumpert, though it is not too late for him to fulfill his potential, and Tim Hardaway Jr. had an impressive rookie season. New York’s coach must find a way to maximize the talents of Shumpert, Hardaway and other young players.
Woodson’s successor will also need to assist Jackson in two crucial areas: changing the culture of the team and recruiting.
Jackson faces the monumental task of rebuilding the culture of a franchise that has been marred by distrust, secrecy, poor organization, lack of leadership and horrendous personnel moves for over a decade. He began the process by firing the entire coaching staff and bringing transparency to the front office.
Jackson realizes he cannot remake the franchise on his own. He needs a partner in the locker room to extend his message and principles to the players and the media.
He also needs a coach who can help him recruit elite talent to New York. Jackson will use his cachet and communication skills to try to lure Carmelo Anthony and other free agents to New York, though the players know he is not the man they will be playing for. Ultimately, the Knicks coach will have to sell players on himself, his system and his ability to mold the team into a championship contender.
Anybody applying for the position of head coach of the New York Knicks must be patient and remain calm. Next season will be a throw-away year for New York, regardless of whether Anthony re-signs. The Knicks are biding their time for the summer of 2015 when Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani’s salaries come off the books.
An unsuccessful 2014-15 season will lead to a barrage of criticism from the media and fans. And the notoriously erratic James Dolan is always capable of stirring up some type of controversy. The coach must remain calm and trust that Jackson has his back and can ward off Dolan.
Candidates with big egos need not apply. Jackson is the face of the franchise and his cult of personality will cast a shadow over whoever works for him. Any attempt to outshine or overrule the boss will lead to conflict. The Zen Master is in complete control of the franchise and is looking for a coach who is willing to implement his style of play.
There is no firm deadline for the Knicks' head coaching job to be filled. Jackson would like to have a coach in place in time to coach the Knicks’ summer league team, via Herring. He is more concerned with hiring the right guy, than filling the job quickly.