There’s a new sheriff in town.
After weeks of deliberation and interviews, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson has chosen Jeff Hornacek to be the team’s next head coach. Hornacek, a former player best known for his time spent with John Stockton and Karl Malone on the Utah Jazz, comes to New York after serving as the head coach of the Phoenix Suns for two and a half seasons.
Reactions to the Hornacek hire have been mixed. He is without a doubt a proven coach, having led the Suns to 48 wins in his first season. Moreover, many Knicks, Carmelo Anthony most notably, have praised Hornacek and his resumé.
Nevertheless, I, like many Knicks fans, am not super excited about Hornacek’s arrival. While I respect Hornacek and think he can be an elite coach in the NBA, I do not think that he is the right fit for this team.
Anyone familiar with the Knicks in recent years knows that Phil Jackson calls the shots. As a member of the last New York Knicks team to win an NBA Championship in 1973, the Zen Master returned to Madison Square Garden in 2014 to restore New York to its former basketball glory. Part of Jackson’s master plan to right the ship has been to implement the legendary triangle offense.
Although the triangle offense has proven to be successful in the NBA, Jackson used it as a coach to win six championships with the Chicago Bulls and five with the Los Angeles Lakers, it has yet to change the Knicks’ losing ways. Part of the issue has been the lack of proper personnel, but the addition of Jeff Hornacek doesn’t make things much better.
In Phoenix, Hornacek ran an up-tempo offense with a major emphasis on guard play and running in transition. This is essentially the antithesis of the triangle offense, which is methodical and relies heavily on ball movement and basket cuts. Hornacek’s lack of familiarity with the triangle offense is the biggest mystery surrounding his hire. Why hire a coach who knows next-to-nothing about the system you want to put in place?
Nevertheless, maybe I’m missing something here. Maybe Phil Jackson has realized the triangle won’t work in New York and has decided to take a new approach. Besides, if Jackson wanted a coach well-versed in the triangle, he could have just promoted Kurt Rambis, Jackson’s assistant in Los Angeles for eight seasons, from interim head coach. He didn’t do this, however, which has only raised more questions.
The only thing certain at this point is that Jeff Hornacek is here to stay. As a lifelong Knicks fan tired of the losing, I just want to see success. If Phil Jackson thinks Jeff Hornacek is the guy who can bring that success, I have no choice but to trust him.
Worst case scenario: Hornacek gets the boot in two years and we get to have this same conversation again.