The New York Knicks fired head coach Jeff Hornacek on Thursday. The 54-year-old spent two losing seasons with the Knicks, compiling a 60-104 record and finishing in the NBA’s bottom 10 both years.
“Jeff is a true professional who has worked tirelessly for this organization the last two seasons,” team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry said in a statement. “We sincerely appreciate his efforts and considerable contributions to the team and wish him well in his future endeavors.”
The Knicks also parted ways with associated head coach Kurt Rambis. Both were holdovers from the Phil Jackson era. The team’s former president of basketball operations brought in Rambis as a longtime confidante and proponent of his signature triangle offense, and it was that philosophy that immediately and publicly clashed with Hornacek’s style in his first season on the bench in 2016-17.
Hornacek’s second season in New York showed flashes of promise before burgeoning star Kristaps Porzingis suffered a season-ending knee injury in February. The Knicks carried a winning record into Christmas, a .500 mark into the New Year and were four games out of the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot when Porzingis went down. Afterward, Hornacek’s future in New York was all but over.
Once a Coach of the Year contender when the Phoenix Suns won 48 games in the early part of this decade, Hornacek has now been ousted from two of the league’s dregs in a span of three years.
As for the Knicks, their coaching search will begin with a handful of candidates, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, including former Golden State Warriors coach (and ex-Knicks point guard) Mark Jackson, former Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale, former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt and Jerry Stackhouse, who has built an impressive résumé coaching the G League’s Toronto 905.
The Knicks’ opening is a fascinating one. On the one hand, the organization has been an exercise in futility, with five straight lottery appearances, one playoff series victory since reaching the 2000 Finals and an owner who invents new ways to embarrass the franchise. On the other, this is New York City.
This is Madison Square Garden. This is the brightest of basketball stages, and the newest Knicks steward will have Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina and a 2018 lottery pick to work with, along with the possibility of cap space in 2019. (The new coach must also beware the Knicks have spent that space on Joakim Noah and Tim Hardaway Jr. in recent years.) Whoever Mills and Perry hire will go a long way in determining whether the Knicks stay a laughingstock or emerge from this rebuild with some hope.
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