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New York Knicks: 4 Reasons to Hire Lawrence Frank as Assistant Coach

Matt WolfsonContributor IIIJuly 20, 2011

New York Knicks: 4 Reasons to Hire Lawrence Frank as Assistant Coach

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    If nothing else, there are two truths about the current New York Knicks: They are extremely hyped and they can't play defense at all.

    Luckily, the latter can be changed.

    Of course, the front office has to look to bring in the right players. Ones who are useful at both ends of the court, who can complement their two stars.

    Like many Knicks fans, I'm fully in favor of coach Mike D'Antoni, but it appears that he will be given the final year of his contract to prove that he can coach a winning team.

    So, despite my disappointment,there is some hope, as it looks like the Knicks are trying to add an assistant coach to help D'Antoni work with players on the defensive end.

    According to Newsday's Alan Hahn, the leading candidate in this hunt is Boston Celtics assistant, Lawrence Frank.

    This is the best news I've heard in basketball since Shaquille O'Neal announced he'd be teaming up with Charles Barkley and the gang on TNT.

    Frank famously started his head coaching career with 13 consecutive wins for the New Jersey Nets, sustaining a moderately productive tenure.

    Most recently, he served under Doc Rivers of the Celtics, and is highly regarded throughout the NBA.

    Here are four reasons why the Knicks should actively pursue Lawrence Frank.

Knicks' Current Defense

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    Pictured here is Rajon Rondo showing the Knicks his incredible range.

    Obviously, the first reason to hire a defensive specialist is because the active coaches are just not getting the job done when it comes to preaching the importance stopping the opponent.

    All season long, it was refreshing to see a revived Knicks squad out on the court, but their defense was equally as disgusting as the year before.

    The New York Post's Mike Vaccaro, after watching the Knicks just following the Carmelo Anthony deal lose to an impossibly bad Cleveland Cavaliers squad, reflected, "the 2011 Knicks went out and played defense the way they’ve come to play defense over the past decade—so badly, so poorly, so indifferently, that it makes you wonder if five orange cones wouldn’t be just as effective as five live Knicks."

    Very true, Mr. Vaccaro.

    Locker room leaders Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire set a poor example, and the rest of the team follows.

    The team, on average, allowed 105.7 point per game–third worst in the league.

    In terms of turnover differential, the Knicks lost the ball 1.5 more times per game than they took it away from other teams–fourth worst in the league.

    These numbers are unacceptable, and if the Knicks want to seriously contend for a championship, they are going to have to buckle down on defense, whether they hire Frank or not.

Frank's Experience

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    While he was an undergrad at Indiana University, Frank's first four years of basketball experience were spent managing under the legendary Bob Knight.

    If there's a better man from whom to learn how to play the game, and how to pour all of your emotions into the art of coaching, I've never heard of him.

    Upon graduating, Frank spent time as an assistant with both the University of Tennessee and Marquette University, before moving up to the NBA's Vancouver Grizzlies, serving as Brian Hill's assistant coach.

    Then, in 2004, the New Jersey Nets chose Frank to succeed Byron Scott as their head coach.

    The Nets roster was better than average at the time, but their ability to compete with the top teams of the league were noticeably diminished.

    Despite this, Frank led the Nets to the playoffs in his first four seasons with the team, of which he made it to the second round three times.

    Frank got canned in 2009 after an abysmal 0-16 start. This looks worse than it actually was, as his best player at the time was Devin Harris.

    Frank looked eerily similar in the days before his Nets firing as Jeff Van Gundy did when he stormed out on the Knicks. Both were balding and broken.

    After a six-month hiatus, Doc Rivers needed to replace Tom Thibodeau on his staff. The level-headed Frank was the logical successor.

    As Amalie Benjamin of the Boston Globe rightly put it:

    The fit was too good, too perfect. It would mean an easy transition, no time wasted getting a new assistant to understand a system that had long been favored by Rivers, a system that came out of the “Pat Riley tree,’’ as Rivers put it.

    It would mean no buy-in, no adjustment for the veterans, no unsettling something that was already proven to work. Frank would command the respect of the players, and that was as important as already knowing the system.


    This paragraph pretty much sums it up. Frank never had to deal with a player's personality getting in his way–that's Doc's job.

    If Rivers can grasp the fact that having Frank (someone who is more emphatic and knowledgeable running the defense) is the best way to run a successful team, D'Antoni should see it, too. 

    D'Antoni didn't want a defensive specialist when he was head coach of the Phoenix Suns, but things are different now. The stakes are much higher in New York.

    It is plain to see that the only way that this team can achieve victory at the highest level is to hire a coach who cares about defense. There is nobody available who can do that job better than Lawrence Frank.

Frank's Timing

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    It's funny that timing can now benefit Frank, as it's been the greatest downfall in his career.

    It was bad timing that found him just too late in New Jersey, in the middle of the season Kenyon Martin packed his bag for Denver.

    Not long after, Jason Kidd needed microfracture surgery and Richard Jefferson ruptured a wrist ligament. These roadblocks often rendered the team incomplete for a true playoff run.

    It was bad timing that put Frank on the Celtics staff just after their championship, with their Big Three maybe just a year too old.

    But now, if the Knicks can nab him, timing will finally be on his side.

    Considered a top contender for the Detroit Pistons head coaching spot, Frank isn't necessarily set to remain in Boston.

    Some find it strange that Frank would ditch Boston, a great city with a solid team, for the same position elsewhere.

    However, Frank would have good reason for doing so.

    When he inked a short-term deal in Boston, Jill Seward of NESN wrote, "Frank is optimistic about his one-year contract with the Celtics, according to the New Jersey Star Ledger, and is pleased with the recent signings of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen."

    As he did in Boston, Frank would be signing a one-year deal, being that it's the same amount of time that D'Antoni's contract has on it.

    After the Celts were knocked out of the playoffs, Rivers quickly decided to remain in Boston for the next five years, making Frank's post with the Celtics somewhat of a dead-end job.

    A switch to the Big Apple would give him several options, leading us to...

The Future

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    Ah yes, the bright future of the New York Knicks (or so we hope...let's just assume that it won't be worse than the past decade).

    Frank's defensive specialty is highly praised.

    As Paul Flannery at Green Street describes the Celtics defense under him, "They ranked first in fewest points allowed, second in field goal percentage defense and were in a virtual tie with the Bulls in terms of points per 100 possessions. He also had a solid rapport with the veteran players—no easy task."

    This could go a long way for the Knicks.

    As I've been calling for Mike D'Antoni's exit from the Garden as soon as humanly possible, maybe there's a better option.

    Maybe we can do what Boston's done.

    The Celtics have proven that with the right minds and egos, two coaches on two ends of the court can work.

    And with Doc's extension closing Boston's possible vacancy, the reasons for Frank exiting Beantown continue to pile up.

    Also, Hahn reminds us, "Frank might also prefer New York over returning to Boston for proximity reasons, as well, because he could be home full-time in New Jersey, where his wife and two daughters remained last season when he worked for the Celtics."

    On top of this, if Frank coaches under D'Antoni this season, he'll be in the same position next year as he is right now.

    As I mentioned earlier, it was reported that part of D'Antoni's Phoenix departure was the front office's push for the help of a defensive specialist, which made this situation fairly worrisome in terms of his reaction.

    I thought he'd share the same resistance with the Knicks, but according to RealGM.com, "D'Antoni personally likes Frank and there is a strong mutual interest there for many reasons."

    Perhaps, if D'Antoni fails to meet expectations this season, Frank would be next in like to coach the Knicks.

    There are tons of possibilities for Lawrence Frank, and if he joins the Knicks, it would open of tons of opportunities for the team.

    And though it would be a great move by the Knicks to bring him in, I doubt the Pistons would be foolish enough to let him slip through their hands.

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