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David Fizdale Fired by Knicks Amid Losing Skid; Mike Miller Named Interim HC

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2019

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 24:  Head Coach David Fizdale of the New York Knicks looks on against the Brooklyn Nets at Madison Square Garden on November 24, 2019 in New York City.Brooklyn Nets defeated the New York Knicks 103-101. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The New York Knicks announced they fired head coach David Fizdale and assistant coach Keith Smart on Friday.

Assistant Mike Miller will be the Knicks' interim head coach.

Fizdale compiled a 21-83 record with the team after being hired in May 2018. For many, his ouster marked another example of the longstanding dysfunction plaguing the franchise.

Nobody expected Fizdale to immediately make the team a winner.

New York went 29-53 in 2017-18 and had little in the way of building blocks for the future. And Kristaps Porzingis, the one player the Knicks could sell as a cornerstone, suffered a torn ACL in February 2018.

It looked as though the front office was biding its time until it could chase Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency, and that seemed even likelier when the Knicks traded Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks. The move gave them the salary-cap space to sign two max-level free agents.

New York had the NBA's worst record (17-65) in 2018-19, but the fanbase could at least look optimistically toward the offseason. Owner James Dolan even publicly hinted at significant additions to come.

The house of cards came tumbling down when Durant and Irving signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

To their credit, the Knicks didn't respond to the setback by committing themselves to expensive multiyear contracts that would hinder their flexibility down the road. However, they signed four power forwards (Julius Randle, Marcus Morris Sr., Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson).

Perhaps team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry viewed those players as future trade assets, but a frontcourt-heavy roster presented problems that almost no coach could solve.

The Knicks rank last in offensive rating (101.9), 23rd in defensive rating (112.9) and 28th in effective field-goal percentage (48.4).

It didn't take long for things to unravel. New York lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers by 21 points on Nov. 10, which led Mills and Perry to call an impromptu press conference.

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ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Malika Andrews reported shortly thereafter that Mills "had started to lay the internal groundwork for the eventual dismissal" of Fizdale. He was in effect scapegoating the coach for the front office's disastrous offseason:

"Rival coaches and executives see a mismatched Knicks roster slow of foot, without legitimate NBA guard play, but Mills is selling Dolan on a poorly coached team that is underachieving at 2-8 to start the season, league sources said. Around Madison Square Garden and the league, the timing and tone of the news conference was met with considerable surprise and dismayand it was considered to be a complete undermining of Fizdale."

After that, Fizdale's firing felt inevitable whether he deserved to go or not. And the Knicks suffered a 44-point defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday, which further eroded his job security.

The general scarcity of NBA head coaching jobs and the size of the New York market will guarantee the Knicks can find candidates willing to succeed Fizdale. The obvious question is whether anybody can make the team a contender under Dolan's watch.

Dolan assumed control of the Knicks in 1999. Since then, the franchise has had 10 head coaches—not counting interim replacements—and made just six trips to the playoffs.

Even if Mills and Perry follow Fizdale out the door, Dolan doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt in terms of whether the Knicks will build a sustainable approach that yields on-court success.

   

Stats courtesy of NBA.com.