NBA Rumor: New York Knicks Coach

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Sources say that the decision to hire Rambis was made ultimately by Hornacek. “Nothing is being forced down Jeff’s neck,” one source with knowledge of the dynamic said, in reference to the idea that team president Phil Jackson would force Hornacek to hire Rambis. Sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that Hornacek had initially discussed the job with Rambis a few weeks ago but Rambis did not immediately accept, telling Hornacek that he should take time to really think through his staff and what he needed before making this decision.

Ian Begley: Jeff Hornacek says he will make the final call on his coaching staff hires. “I can decide who I want to have,” he said in an interview with WFAN. “With (ex-Knicks interim coach) Kurt (Rambis), I’ve had experience with him as a player, we played on the same team in Phoenix. I know Kurt’s coaching abilities, what he can provide to us. And I’ve talked to him once about the possibility and how he would fit on our staff. I’m going to continue to talk to him over these next few days as well as filling out the whole staff altogether. If we go on this process, if I think he’d be good for us, then I’d love to have him. If we talk and we just don’t seem like it’s going to fit then he’ll move on and get another job. Through our talks, we’ll figure that out.”

The seven-week Knicks coaching search officially ended Thursday when the club formally announced the hiring of former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek with a “Welcome” tweet from the team’s official account. It’s been known since May 19 that Hornacek shockingly would become Phil Jackson’s fourth head coach in his two-plus-year tenure, but as usual, the club that hasn’t won an NBA title in 43 years kept to its plodding pace, naming their coach on Day 1 of the NBA Finals. Contract negotiations began nearly two weeks ago, and Hornacek will be introduced at a gala press conference on Friday at noon, alongside Jackson and general manager Steve Mills.

New York has won just 48 games over the past two seasons of Jackson’s presidency, but Jackson and the Knicks hope to build a contender around rookie Kristaps Porzingis and veteran Carmelo Anthony. The club is expected to announce Jeff Hornacek as its next head coach some time this week. Hornacek will be the second head coach Jackson has hired (a total that doesn’t include 2015-16 interim coach Kurt Rambis and 2013-14 head coach Mike Woodson, whom Jackson fired).

Some reports have suggested that Hornacek was Jackson’s preferred target throughout his coaching search. If that was the case, Jackson didn’t inform his good friend Rambis, who became the Knicks’ interim coach after Fisher’s dismissal. Jackson’s decision to hire Hornacek caught Rambis off guard, sources say. That Rambis would have a role with the organization was seen as a foregone conclusion earlier this month, but his future with the club is less clear now.

Rambis is a good guy with a keen basketball mind, but the backlash from hiring one of Phil Jackson’s longtime lieutenants – all while the future of Jackson after next season is uncertain – would be enormous. Jackson is devoted to the triangle offense, and last month’s two-week triangle camp with Knicks players, which included daily meditation, film study and court work, league sources told The Vertical, was the strongest indication Rambis would get the gig. Yet as the weeks went by, everyone in the organization, including Jackson, came to the understanding the job needed to go to somebody else.

Sometime in the last few days, Jackson locked in on Jeff Hornacek as his top choice to coach the New York Knicks, zooming past David Blatt, Frank Vogel and Kurt Rambis, and stunning the entire basketball world in the process. As B/R first reported Wednesday night, the Knicks and Hornacek are moving toward a deal, though formal contract negotiations had not yet begun. One source monitoring the talks called Hornacek’s hiring “a foregone conclusion,” saying that all parties “want to make this happen.” Another source confirmed, “It’s as close as humanly possible.” This was not the conclusion anyone expected.

Hiring Hornacek, 53, who was fired by the Phoenix Suns in February, makes no sense, in general terms. Hiring Hornacek makes perfect sense, through the Phil Jackson prism. What Jackson values most—in both players and coaches—is an intellectual heft, an ability to think the game, and in Hornacek he saw an analytical mind whose basketball values are in line with his. “Intellectual capacity matters,” said one person with insight into Jackson’s decision — and now, more than ever, in an NBA shaped by advanced statistics, player tracking technology and sports science.

Jeff Hornacek will be the new coach of the New York Knicks, league sources confirmed to ESPN’s Ian Begley. The Knicks made no announcement Wednesday night, but sources involved with the situation said a deal is expected soon. New York’s decision to hire Hornacek was first reported by Bleacher Report, with a source telling the website that a deal was “as close [to completed] as humanly possible.”

Former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, speaking on Sirius XM Radio, said he’s heard that Hornacek won’t be saddled with Jackson’s beloved system. That would be an upset considering Jackson just held a triangle seminar with the majority of the Knicks roster. “The things I’ve heard is that he’s not going to be required to run the triangle,” Jeff Van Gundy said. “Which is smart from the standpoint that he’s never taught it before. So you don’t want to come in trying that you’ve never played in or taught. I’m interested in that. But I think it’s an inspired choice.”

Ian Begley: Knicks president Phil Jackson met last week with ex-Pacers coach Frank Vogel, league sources confirm to ESPN. In addition to Vogel, the Knicks have also considered Kurt Rambis and ex-Cavs coach David Blatt for their opening. The idea that the Knicks will eventually hire Kurt Rambis, which has been espoused widely in coaching circles, shouldn’t be viewed as a forgone conclusion, league sources say. It is unclear at this point if Jackson or the Knicks have talked to other available coaches about their opening. Jackson’s meeting with Vogel was earlier reported by the New York Daily News.

Mike Fratello wants Knicks' job

Mike Fratello, former Cavaliers and Hawks coach and current analyst for NBA TV and the YES Network, threw his hat in the ring and told WFAN on Thursday he would like the Knicks job. “I just want one more big headache. How about that?” Fratello said, adding all the top teams used triangle principles, so he would, too. “San Antonio does it. Golden State has incorporated it. There’s a number of teams that have parts of the triangle that they use. They just don’t use the same wording as Phil and as his great assistant, Tex Winter, did over the years. So you can find a place for it in your offense.”

The veteran forward didn’t address the coaching search on Wednesday, but league sources with knowledge of Anthony’s thinking said a report that stated he “likes” the idea of the Knicks hiring David Blatt is a gross exaggeration. This isn’t to say that Anthony wouldn’t support a Blatt hire if the Knicks choose to go that route. But the league sources say Anthony hadn’t expressed his opinion on Blatt to anyone. Blatt, of course, remains a candidate for the Knicks’ opening. Team president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills met with Blatt late last month.

Rambis was in Chicago at the NBA’s draft combine on Tuesday with other members of the Knicks’ front office, according to league sources. If he isn’t hired as the Knicks’ next head coach, Rambis’ presence in Chicago further confirms that he’ll have a role in the organization in some fashion. Rambis was with a contingent from the Knicks’ front office that included Mills, assistant GM Allan Houston, vice president of basketball operations Jamie Mathews and director of scouting Kristian Petesic.

Late Lakers owner Jerry Buss, with his new Staples Center and expensive skyboxes set to debut, changed his mind once Jackson expressed interest. Buss felt he needed a marquee name. Rambis was removed from the staff completely, demoted to broadcaster and, according to the controversial biography “Mindgames,” conducting arena tours. According to the 2002 biography, Buss’ daughter, Jeanie, who didn’t know Phil Jackson from Andrew Jackson, was furious. Jeanie had been close friends with Rambis’ wife, Linda, since the 1980s. “Mindgames” described Rambis as “discouraged, confused and bitter.’’ Two years later, in 2001, at Jeanie’s behest, Jackson promoted Rambis to his staff, demoting triangle legend Tex Winter. But Rambis’ head-coaching career never took off.

Roland Lazenby, the “Mindgames” author who is out with a new book on Kobe Bryant in August, said he believes Rambis will be the guy and explained a move that would not go over well with fans on social media. If Jackson is making up for 1999, it’s in his subconscious. “I think Phil believes Kurt is the best way to accomplish his goals of getting the triangle up and running and winning with it,’’ said Lazenby, who has covered Jackson since his Chicago stint and remains close to some of Jackson’s associates. “Fans and media are focused on Rambis’ image of losing in Minnesota [32-132] and in New York [9-19]. Phil’s more focused on the reality. He needs Kurt, a good experienced coach who allows Phil access. They’ve been thinking together for years now.’’

He pitched himself to Jackson as a defensive-minded coach who, while playing collegiately at Princeton, was reared on the joy of a deliberate, five-man offense and therefore amenable to embracing Jackson’s beloved triangle. He reminded Jackson that he initially went to Cleveland in 2014 to coach a young, undisciplined Cavaliers team, a work in progress. That was before James suddenly returned as the homecoming King, when the Cavs were essentially the Knicks, minus the veteran shotmaking of Carmelo Anthony.

Vogel’s job has been said to be in jeopardy in past years. He would seem a perfect fit if front-runner Kurt Rambis agrees to slide over as the offensive coordinator of the triangle. According to sources, Knicks owner James Dolan felt Vogel outcoached Mike Woodson during the Knicks’ seminal six-game playoff defeat to the Pacers in 2013. The Knicks carried a 54-28 record into the second-round series before being upset – the pivotal moment coming when Carmelo Anthony was blocked at the rim by Roy Hibbert late in the fourth quarter of Game 6.
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