The New York Knicks have parted ways with head coach David Fizdale after starting the season with a 4-18 record - the worst in the Eastern Conference.
Along with 22 games this year, Fizdale served one full season as the Knicks' head coach finishing with a combined 21-83 record. His .202 winning percentage was the worst of any coach in Knicks franchise history.
New York's next head coach will be their 13th since the 1999-2000 season, but there are more questions about the future of the team than who their next head coach will be.
Our NBA.com staff takes a look at what's next for the Knicks.
What went wrong?
Let's start with the fact that the team's struggles did not begin with Fizdale.
Dating back to the 2001-02 season, the Knicks have won just a single playoff series. That also happened to be the final year that Jeff Van Gundy roamed the sidelines at Madison Square Garden. When he resigned 19 games into that season, it began a coaching carousel that continues to spin out of control.
Don Chaney. Herb Williams. Lenny Wilkens. Larry Brown. Isiah Thomas. Mike D'Antoni. Mike Woodson. Derek Fisher. Kurt Rambis. Jeff Hornacek. David Fizdale. That's a lot of head coaches, none of whom managed to finish their time in New York with a winning record.
Fizdale was not dealt the best of hands as he took the job just months after Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL in a fateful game against the Milwaukee Bucks. At his introductory press conference in May 2018, here's what the new head coach had to say about his presumed franchise player: "I would say the best way to describe it, he's the future of the NBA. Look around at these teams that are still playing right now and they've all got guys that are super long, super athletic, super skilled, super tough-minded, incredible workers and that is what he embodies."
Porzingis never played in a single game for the Knicks under Fizdale as the relationship with the franchise soured to the point where they ultimately traded him last year to the Dallas Mavericks. Add in the free agency misses with the likes of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving this past summer and there's a case to be made that Fizdale never had much of an opportunity to restore the Knicks to postseason contention.
But what about the opportunity he did get?
While RJ Barrett has shown significant progress, the other young pieces in place have struggled to find their footing amidst inconsistent rotations.
Kevin Knox, the ninth overall pick in the 2018 draft, turned heads during summer league prior to his rookie season that left Fizdale gushing about his long-term potential as a future star. After struggling with consistency during his rookie season in which Knox shot, he's regressed in his second season to the point where he's playing nearly nine fewer minutes per game and recently picked up a DNP-CD in a loss to the 76ers.
Mitchell Robinson showed clear promise last year as a rookie, ranking among the league leaders in blocked shots despite playing just under 21 minutes per game. Though he's shown a troubling penchant for fouling, Robinson hasn't seen nearly as large of a role as one might expect, instead scrounging for minutes in a crowded frontcourt featuring a collection of veteran bigs added this past offseason.
Dennis Smith Jr., the most valuable young asset the Knicks received in the haul for Porzingis, hasn't had nearly the impact most foresaw when they moved their former franchise player as he's now part of a confusing backcourt rotation that can't seem to settle on a consensus.
Combine the lack of player development with the fact the Knicks rank 26th in defensive rating and dead last in offensive rating during the Fizdale tenure and it's not hard to see why the Knicks have ultimately decided to once again head in a different direction.
- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)
Potential targets for next coach
A few names come to mind.
First: Mark Jackson and Jerry Stackhouse, both of whom were candidates to take over as head coach before Fizdale was first hired.
New York is finalizing plans to meet with three of the top candidates for the Knicks' head coaching job this week -- David Fizdale, Mark Jackson and Jerry Stackhouse, league sources tell ESPN.- Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 15, 2018
Jackson hasn't coached since the Golden State Warriors let him go in 2014, but Stackhouse is currently the head coach at Vanderbilt. It's unknown if Stackhouse would leave for the NBA right now, though, as he reportedly agreed to a six-year contract with Vanderbilt and turned down multiple interview opportunities with NBA teams to take the job.
Other than Jackson and Stackhouse, David Blatt, Mike Woodson and Jeff Van Gundy have been linked to the Knicks in recent years. So has Kenny Smith, who said he met with the Knicks last year when the franchise was looking for a new head coach.
As Jordan Green of Sporting News noted, Blatt hasn't coached in the NBA since 2016, but he has a relationship with Steve Mills, who is currently the president of the Knicks. Woodson, meanwhile, was most recently an assistant coach on the LA Clippers, while Van Gundy has been a part of the coaching staff for the United State men's national team.
Smith doesn't have any head coaching experience, but he has said before that "coaching is definitely on the aspiration list.
For now, the Knicks will reportedly turn to either Mike Miller or Pat Sullivan, both of whom are currently assistant coaches on the Knicks, to be the interim head coach.
- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)
Who should the Knicks build around?
This doesn't seem like a very clear-cut answer to me. The few players they would consider could be broken up into tiers with the ability to jump up into that "build around this player" group.
Lets start with the one undeniable cornerstone - the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, RJ Barrett.
Barrett is the only guarantee for a player that the Knicks should build the future of their franchise around. The Canadian has made the most out of his rookie season thus far despite the lack of team success to show for it.
He has shown flashes of a playmaker and scorer that can run New York's team in the near-future. This 19-year-old is composed, he says the right things, he wants to be in New York despite the madness that comes with it and he has the demeanor of a leader.
Barrett is the one player the Knicks should without a doubt build around.
Then there is 25-year-old forward Julius Randle - their highest-paid offseason signing - in his own tier underneath that.
His three-year, $62.1 million contract showed that the Knicks have intentions to use him as a building block, but his production and efficiency are both down from last season with New Orleans. It hasn't been the best situation for him to thrive in New York through the first quarter of this season, but there hasn't been anything that screams he's a player to build around. He's in a tier of his own because he still has time to prove he can be another piece to the puzzle, but if a decision was needed right now, it's not encouraging.
Then in the tier under that are their two draft picks from the 2018 NBA Draft - No. 9 overall pick Kevin Knox and No. 66 overall pick Mitchell Robinson.
At 20-years-old, it's way too soon to throw in the towel on Knox. He's down to just 20 minutes per game and hasn't had much of a chance to prove his worth or showcase any growth. Does it appear as though he's a key cornerstone to the future of this franchise? Not quite yet. But he needs more of an opportunity than he's received, which is why they shouldn't just assume through one-and-a-quarter seasons that he isn't a player to build around.
Same goes to 21-year-old Robinson, who in small doses last season, looked like he could be a player the Knicks could build around. With how log-jammed New York's roster is with big men this season, Robinson hasn't gotten close to the playing time he should be receiving to truly progress as a young player. If he were to see more playing time, I think we would see that he could be an affordable piece for the Knicks to build alongside Barrett and a max-contract player.
Change is coming in New York and we'll see which of these players are around for the rebuild.
- Kyle Irving (@KyleIrv_)
What should the Knicks prioritize?
Even though the Knicks will begin yet another coaching search, the priority still hasn't changed.
New York has to continue to develop their young players. RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox and Allonzo Trier are all still extremely young and can all provide some sort of value to the current team.
Other than Barrett, none of the guys mentioned above are playing more than 20 minutes per game. That has to change from here on out.
The team isn't going to win many games this year - the fanbase is aware of that - but if the youngsters don't develop under whoever the new coaching staff is, then this season should be looked at as a failure.
The free-agent class of 2020 isn't rich with talent, but 2021 is. It's up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to really find out what they have in the aforementioned players - and you can throw Frank Ntilikina in that mix too. In a perfect world, the young core gels and becomes special under a new coaching staff but what's more likely is that one or two of this crop become good enough to be assets for the Knicks going forward.
Knicks fans have been waiting a long time to see their team get back to relevance in the NBA. The organization here needs to take their time, do it right and develop the young talent they have.
They also need to allow the next head coach the time to do it regardless of record.
That's been the tricky part.
- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)
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