Jeff Hornacek lasted just two-and-a-half seasons with the Phoenix Suns before getting fired at the beginning of February, but the New York Knicks are banking on the 53-year-old to lead the franchise into a prosperous new era.
The Knicks officially announced the deal on Thursday after Bleacher Report's Howard Beck first reported on May 18 that the two sides had reached an agreement, but he noted all the way back in February that Hornacek would be of interest to the Knicks after they fired Derek Fisher. ESPN.com's Ian Begley confirmed the report.
On Wednesday, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported Hornacek is signing a three-year contract with the Knicks, with a press conference to take place this week. Begley reported the deal is for $15 million over the three years.
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News noted Kurt Rambis may remain on the team's staff, as Hornacek considered him for an assistant role with the Suns.
The New York Daily News tweeted a picture of team president Phil Jackson, general manager Steve Mills and Hornacek leaving dinner on the night of May 18:
ESPN.com's Zach Lowe provided an overview of what the move could mean for the Knicks:
Hornacek's time with the Suns started off in spectacular fashion. Although Phoenix entered the 2013-14 season as a consensus lottery lock, Hornacek led the bright young squad to a 48-34 record behind career years from Goran Dragic and Gerald Green.
During the prosperous run, Phoenix ranked eighth in offensive efficiency and a respectable 15th in defensive efficiency.
Thanks to the Suns' sudden emergence, Hornacek finished the 2013-14 campaign second in the Coach of the Year voting—41 points behind San Antonio Spurs boss Gregg Popovich.
|Jeff Hornacek's Coaching Career|
However, things quickly turned sour. The Suns fell back to earth during a 2014-15 season that saw the front office trade Isaiah Thomas and Dragic in separate deadline deals, and they went on to finish just 39-43.
The 2015-16 season also resembled a step back. Phoenix faltered early and often, and news that star point guard Eric Bledsoe would miss the remainder of the regular season with a torn left meniscus following just 31 appearances sent the team tumbling back into purgatory.
But now that he has a fresh start, Hornacek will attempt to harness some of Phoenix's 2013-14 magic as he begins to implement an uptempo system that would appear to go against the philosophical ideals the Knicks have stood for under Jackson, as The Ringer's Jason Concepcion noted:
While the Knicks played at the league's fifth-slowest pace (93.4 possessions per 48 minutes), the Suns played at the league's third-fastest (98.5 possessions per 48 minutes). In Hornacek's first two full seasons at the helm, the Suns ranked eighth and third in pace, respectively.
However, the Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring noted that a stylistic shift could be beneficial as the Knicks seek to break free of the triangle offense's sluggish tendencies:
It’s clear that the Knicks, who have ranked dead-last in fast-break scoring each of the past four seasons, could use someone who is able to get them easier baskets. The Knicks got few early-clock looks last season, with just 14.6 percent of their shots coming within the first six seconds of the shot clock, according to NBA.com. By contrast, the Suns took about 24 percent of their shots within the first six seconds in their two full seasons under Hornacek.
An uptempo overhaul could be jarring, but there's no denying the Knicks are in need of an injection of pep on offense. New York ranked 24th in efficiency last season, and that mark was actually up five spots from Derek Fisher's first year on the job.
Hornacek's brief time in Phoenix indicated he can produce quick turnarounds and strong short-term results, but his status as a viable long-term solution on the bench remains in question.
However, now that he's had a chance to learn from his failures with the Suns, there's a good chance Hornacek's second go-around as a head coach will prove to be a more fruitful endeavor.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.