15 Questions New York Knicks Hopefully Asked During Head Coach Interviews
The New York Knicks front office, in pursuit of a new head coach, has taken its time to conduct an uncommonly thorough search—which has tickled fans pink. They have drunk in each new candidate's name with a contented sigh like it's a sip of fine espresso.
While fans luxuriate in that feeling of wonder and promise, general manager Scott Perry & Co. no doubt feel the pressure of their first major test—a test that we could see wrap up this week.
A modern head coach for a team in flux must embrace the best of old and new. It must be a person who can both call the perfect play and inspire an exhausted, demoralized team when it's down in overtime. This person must draw the best out of the talent on the roster instead of repeating the same routine that worked with the talent they had before.
That may be a tall order, but if the Knicks asked the right questions, they might find someone who fits the bill.
The Kristaps Questions
How would you use Kristaps Porzingis?
Injured and cagey he may be, but Kristaps Porzingis is still the core of the Knicks' offense and defense. If a candidate's answer to this question is a curt, vague ("More low post. Next question?") one, then this is not the coach for you.
How would you help Porzingis?
Porzingis' performance began to suffer this season long before his injury. After an electrifying start to the year, he slid to merely battery-saver mode after Tim Hardaway Jr. was injured.
If what KP needs is more perimeter shooters to draw defenders off him so he can operate in the paint or a point guard who feeds him more—or something else entirely—the next coach should have some thoughts on that now, even before running a practice.
The Stats Questions
How do you use stats about your own team and players?
The honest answer might be anywhere from "don't use 'em," to "throw 'em in the media's face like a sweaty rag," to "identify which of our defensive lineups is strongest against the pick-and-roll."
How do you use stats about other teams and players?
It could be "I let my advance scout and statistician give them to me, and then I ignore them," or it could be "I use them to determine how to force an opponent's star player to where they shoot with the lowest efficiency."
Regardless of the answers, while the Knicks might not need a stat-junkie head coach, they will want to know what they're getting.
The Player Development Questions
How would you use the G League?
The answer should be a bit more than just "a place to shove guys that I haven't suited up in a few weeks." Will they work with the Westchester Knicks coaching staff to ensure the G League squad is working on the same type of offense they're playing in Madison Square Garden, for example?
How do you develop players—and not just the young ones?
Player development doesn't happen by accident. Is the plan simply to hope the assistant coaches are taking care of that with the rookies and sophomores in practice, or is there also a strategy for giving them playing time? Are veterans also given help learning new skills, or are they expected to figure it out themselves?
The Tactics Questions
How will you improve the Knicks' perimeter defense (please)?
The Knicks' perimeter defense has been so pitiful for so long it is now a running joke. This season they were 24th in opponents' three-pointers made. The next coach had better have an answer for the question, and the answer had better be something more specific than "effort." Blaming the players is an excuse that only goes so far.
Looking at the roster right now, what offense suits them best?
Former president of basketball operations Phil Jackson forced the triangle offense upon head coaches Derek Fisher and Jeff Hornacek, but even post-Jackson, the latter's offense rarely exhibited a form or character that one could identify as "Knicks basketball."
An incoming coach should have an idea of how to best use the strengths of this squad instead of trying to rubber stamp it with an offensive scheme that worked with a different set of players.
How would you use Joakim Noah?
If the answer to this question at any point includes "banish him from the team," then this would be an imprudent hire. At the moment, Joakim Noah is a member of the squad with a contract, while Enes Kanter and Kyle O'Quinn have player options they might decline.
Hiring a coach who believes Noah is dead weight could be a bad move.
The Motivation Questions
How do you manage a surplus of personnel at one position?
Again, if the answer involves the word "banishment," then take them off the list.
Hornacek steered the Knicks into a major problem by mismanaging his logjam at the center position and Noah, specifically. The team now has too many point guards—pitting Emmanuel Mudiay, Frank Ntilikina and Trey Burke against one another—and the center problem could persist if Kanter and O'Quinn take their player options.
How do you maintain a winning culture when there's a lot of losing?
This is the magic question. When a team is at genuine risk of missing the playoffs again and may be in "a development year," what is the coach's plan to stay "winners" as the losses add up?
Is there a way to motivate both young players and veterans, and sustain the competitive spirit, even after the playoffs are out of the reach and all the Ws do is work against the team's draft order?
How does the word 'tank' make you feel?
Coaches should feel at least mild nausea when hearing this word. As professionals who understand the business of basketball, they should be able to express their feelings on the matter rationally without vomiting, but if they accept the concept with too much equanimity, steer clear.
The Recognizing-Talent Questions
What should the Knicks be looking for in the draft?
The head coach might not be part of the decision-making on draft night, but this question shows whether the candidate recognizes talent, whether they know what the Knicks' needs are and what type of players they like to coach.
What should the Knicks be looking for in free agency?
Similarly, this gives the front office an idea of what kind of team the coach wants to create and what type of players he wants to coach: splashy scoring or grinding defense, superstars or rising stars, Kevin Durant and Chris Paul or Marcus Smart and Fred VanVleet?
The Liability-Avoidance and Obstacle-Course Questions
Can you take the heat?
It is also important the new Knicks coach passes the test as an honorary New Yorker and avoids some of the easy perils other coaches have fallen into. So an obstacle course of some kind might be necessary before making a final decision.
As a suggestion, make each candidate head to MSG via a packed rush-hour subway, give a MetroCard swipe to a stranded panicked person, wordlessly help a stranger carry their stroller up the stairs, have an argument, and get there in time.
In their way, try to throw them off course with distracting obstacles such as a tourist with an obnoxiously giant golf umbrella, all members of the New York sports media, Walt "Clyde" Frazier in a cow-print suit, television screens showing JD & The Straight Shot music videos—or Charles Oakley.
Perhaps they should have forgotten the interviews altogether and just started there.