As hope of competing for a postseason spot fades away, the Knicks' focus will become making evaluations and building for next year. When management reflects upon this season's shortcomings, a failure to execute the triangle offense properly figures to always be a topic of conversation with Phil Jackson running the show.
Jackson's third full season as Knicks executive is nearing its end. He's had plenty of opportunities to make judgement calls and usher in the players he believes best fit his desired system. At some point (perhaps the team has already reached it), he won't be able to point fingers anymore. Should players be poor fits or not be producing, that says more about Jackson than it does them. It's a reflection upon his inability to put together a successful team. It's time to look in the mirror.
Such a mentality is also worth noting, not only as he evaluates his players, but the coaching staff as well. With a 24-36 record, the Knicks are currently worse off now than they were at this point last season. Jeff Hornacek is not at fault.
It's worth taking into consideration everything the team has had to deal with to this point. Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, two key acquisitions last summer, have both had to deal with major injuries. Kristaps Porzingis also missed time and struggled to find his rhythm for quite a while upon returning. Rose's decision to up and depart to Chicago without notice certainly resulted in drama. Jackson's public comments in the media and on Twitter (especially those about Carmelo Anthony) have created a cloud of negativity that has followed New York for much of this campaign. If all of this isn't enough, the trade speculation surrounding Anthony and others (and then a failure to make any subsequent moves) seemingly creates a level of uncertainty that makes it difficult for a team to focus on moving forward. There's no clarity regarding the direction of this franchise.
Needless to say, Hornacek's fingerprints are nowhere to be found at the scene of this crime. Many people say that if Jackson truly wants the triangle offense executed to his liking, he should simply coach the team himself. That may be true, but obviously isn't a possibility. Instead, it's time to put the organization's trust in Hornacek. That includes giving him the freedom to coach the way he's comfortable doing.
Hornacek is a good coach. He's learned under some of the greatest basketball minds of all time. He knows what it means to compete for championships and understands what it takes to build good chemistry. As a strategist, Hornacek has a very good feel for the game. He makes sensible in-game adjustments and draws up even better plays out of timeouts. He can usually judge the flow of a game and make the necessary substitutions to give his team a necessary boost. What's more, his success in Phoenix proved that he has a good feel for motivating young players. If the Knicks were doing things correctly, they'd be embracing a youth movement with Hornacek and his staff working swiftly on development.
Alas, Hornacek is not to blame. Though unrealistic, Jackson opting to coach the team himself isn't the answer either. Hornacek is the team's third head coach in as many seasons. Something has to give. Clearly, there's more going on here than a coach's inability to find a successful rhythm with his team. Hornacek needs to be given a chance to see things through, along with the freedom to do it his way.
If Jackson can't afford him that, it'll be incredibly difficult to hire quality coaches for this organization moving forward. Firing coaches as frequently as New York has in recent seasons is bad for culture. This is a time for reflection. In doing so, the positives around Hornacek should cement him as an asset for what they're trying to build moving forward.