Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Knicks have parted ways with head coach David Fizdale. Now, the focus turns to Knicks president Steve Mills.
Mills and Knicks general manager Scott Perry hired Fizdale after an extensive coaching search in 2018.
The plan then was for Mills, Perry and Fizdale to build a winning culture in New York by developing young players and attracting stars.
New York, as you know, missed out on its top targets in free agency, signed several veterans to short-term deals and added Julius Randle on a three-year pact.
The expectation was that the Knicks would be more competitive than last year's 17-win group and that the veterans would help the young core develop.
That obviously hasn't happened, and Fizdale, who has two years remaining on his contract, now takes the fall for the group's collective failure to meet expectations.
Fizdale went 21-83 in his two seasons as Knicks head coach. After reaching the playoffs in his first season as Grizzlies coach, FIzdale was fired in Memphis after a run-in with star big man Marc Gasol.
One person around Fizdale late last month came away with the impression that he knew his firing was only a matter of time, per a source.
With Fizdale gone, the spotlight now turns to Mills and Perry, who are in their third season together as a president/GM pairing.
Whether they're in those positions beyond this season remains to be seen.
In the day after their impromptu press conference to express frustration with the season, Mills and others from management spoke with Knicks owner James Dolan. They came away from that conversation with the impression that management would be safe as long as the Knicks showed progress, per SNY sources.
The team hasn't shown much progress since that meeting. If the Knicks turn things around, Mills, Perry and management can make the case that the team was better than it had been playing under Fizdale.
If the club doesn't improve, you can see how Mills and management would be hard-pressed to show Dolan that they've done enough to keep their jobs beyond this season.
It's worth noting that Dolan will have to pay Fizdale the guaranteed money on his contract. Mills and Perry also have years beyond this season guaranteed on their deals. Would the owner be willing to pay both men to walk away?
It's also worth pointing out here that since Perry came on board in the 2017 offseason, the Knicks have held on to their first-round draft picks (they have all of their first-round picks going forward and added two in the Kristaps Porzingis trade), and have a relatively clear salary cap moving forward. Fans who wanted the Knicks to land top free agents last summer won't find solace in that, but it's a fact.
With Perry on board, the Knicks have also had solid drafts. The jury is still out on 19-year-old Kevin Knox, but Mitchell Robinson was a strong second-round pick, Allonzo Trier was undrafted and RJ Barrett, the No. 3 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, has played well thus far for New York.
Because of the Knicks' market, their draft picks and salary cap flexibility created since Perry joined Mills, the Knicks are seen as an attractive destination for executives.
Perry certainly deserves credit for creating that flexibility. If Dolan decides to move on from Mills and Perry, he will be looking for his sixth different executive team since Donnie Walsh's tenure as the head of the franchise. Members of the organization have long had respect for Raptors executive Masai Ujiri. He will be at the top of a list of candidates New York will likely pursue if Mills is let go.
Unless the Knicks' interim head coach shows enough to keep the job permanently, the Knicks will also be looking for another head coach this summer. Fizdale was the Knicks' 11th full-time head coach since the 2001-2002 season.