Jake Brown | Twitter
Is it just me or does it seem like the Knicks head coaching search has taken years? Well, it feels like it.
You can't blame the front office for taking their time in the search for a job that has essentially become a revolving door since Jeff Van Gundy walked out in 2001. This is an important decision in the midst of a rebuilding team that hopes to contend for a playoff spot within the next year or two.
They need to make the right choice and the smart one for what the organization needs.
Reports are saying the guys in the leaderboard for the job are Mike Budenholzer and David Blatt (which is hard to believe). Hiring Blatt would be a huge mistake for the Knicks, and a decision that would undoubtedly upset the Knicks' fan base.
Blatt is not the voice the Knicks should want or need at this point. I can almost guarantee that he wouldn't last more than a few seasons, and the Knicks would be back on the search for yet another new head coach. His 20-plus years coaching overseas just does not translate to the NBA, and LeBron James was essentially the Cavaliers coach when Blatt was the one with the official title.
This is too big of a stage for Blatt at this point.
Budenholzer, on the other hand, wouldn't be a bad decision. I still don't believe he should be the favorite over Mark Jackson and David Fizdale, but nobody should be throwing a hissy fit if the Knicks choose Budenholzer. He took the Hawks to the playoffs his first four seasons as a head coach, including an Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 2015, before their 24-win season this year with a terrible roster.
Budenholzer won Coach of the Year in 2015, leading the Hawks to 60 wins. He was an assistant coach for the Spurs from 1996-2013, getting to learn from the legendary Gregg Popovich, and winning four NBA titles in San Antonio. Learning 17 years from one of the best coaches in NBA history and four out of five seasons making the playoffs as a head coach with the Hawks is definitely good enough to coach this Knicks team.
Also, becoming an NBA assistant coach at 27 years old is an incredible accomplishment, and makes me feel like a bum at the same age. Budenholzer has a winning pedigree, and is highly regarded around the NBA. Choosing Blatt over Budenholzer would be an inexcusable mistake from Scott Perry, Steve Mills, and the front office.
Jackson and Fizdale really should be the top two, though. Jackson would excite the fan base and give the Knicks a head coach that had a tremendous run as a player here. He knows what it takes to win in New York, and he's a Queens product. When you go with the hometown choice at coach, you're going to get a positive reaction for the most part. He started to turn around the Warriors when he was there before the big three of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green became what they are.
According to Marc Stein, Jackson is also receiving a strong behind-the-scenes push for the job from Rich Kleiman, who is Kevin Durant's business partner and close friend of Steve Mills. I don't know how much of an influence Kleiman has, but a strong reference is a strong reference I guess. We'll find out very soon if that good word means anything to Mills and the Knicks' front office.
While Fizdale has just one full season as a head coach under his belt, he also has the winning pedigree as an assistant coach. Fizdale was an assistant for the Warriors for a year, the Hawks from 2004-2008, and the Heat from 2008-2016, where he earned back-to-back championship rings in 2012 and 2013.
The 43-year-old got the pink slip after a 7-12 start this season, which seemed to be the doing of Marc Gasol as he tried to coach a Grizzlies team that had one of the worst rosters in the NBA. It seems like Fizdale's name is in the conversation with Budenholzer and Blatt in the leaderboard to get the job. Two of the three definitely belong.
The other candidates: Kenny Smith, Mike Brown, Mike Woodson, Juwan Howard, James Borrego, Jerry Stackhouse...they're all not really on the radar at this point, nor should they be.