The Knicks Hiring Hornacek Is... A Good Thing
Howard Beck broke that the Knicks were set to hire Jeff Hornacek as their next head coach on Wednesday night. Up until that announcement I thought either David Blatt or Kurt Rambis would get the job with Rambis being the likeliest to get the call. As much as I don’t have much of an opinion on Hornacek as a whole, he isn’t Kurt Rambis and for that I am thankful.
The hire surprised me because I just didn’t think, based on what I know about both of these guys, that Hornacek would be the guy appointed to help bring his vision to life in MSG. Of course, part of that was the “Fear for the worst, hope for the best” personal mantra of Knick fandom. Another part was that Hornacek has no link to the triangle and I didn’t think Jackson would hire somebody with the intention of moving away from it to some degree. According to sources the Knicks will move away from the triangle as a base offense, with some concepts of it still used just like every single offense at every level of basketball.
I watched the Suns a bit a couple of years ago and I’ve listened to Jeff Hornacek speak about basketball on numerous occasions so I don’t have THAT much exposure to him and whatever his coaching abilities/weaknesses may be. He does sound like a progressive coach who is going to do what’s best for the team based on the hand he is dealt as far as his roster goes. The hire, on a small scale, represents the fact that the Knicks might play an up to date, modernized style of basketball. They might actually be fun to watch, record notwithstanding.
Whenever I read or heard interviews from Hornacek he came across as a thoughtful coach who will be forthright regarding what’s going on with his team and the types of strategy and general philosophies he wants to use. I don’t know if that will change with the Knicks and how they usually are with the media but Hornacek at least SOUNDS like he knows what he’s doing.
Hornacek’s tenure in Phoenix was uneven and it progressively got worse as the roster did. In his first two seasons the Suns won 48 and then 39 games, and Hornacek finished second in the coach of the year voting in 2014. The Suns ranked eighth in offense and thirteenth in 2014. Between injuries and chemistry issues, which Hornacek has to be held accountable for, the Suns won 14 of the final 49 games he coached before his firing. The Suns lost 19 of the final 21 games, including 14 straight on the road before Earl Watson was pegged to replace Hornacek. In the final 77 games, Hornacek coached the team won 24. The end result was a 101-112 record in his tenure.
The offense Hornacek ran in Phoenix was based around spacing, dribble drives and positional flexibility. Hornacek would play five point guards if he felt it would get the job done and never placed him or his team in a box regarding swearing by traditional position roles. Hornacek played Channing Frye and Markieff Morris (before the Suns traded his brother and he went absolutely insane) together a lot in 2014 and despite the fact that they lacked for rim protection the net rating for that lineup was 11.6 in the 750 minutes they logged together.
Given the Knicks can find some guards to play at a competent level (yes I know this is hard), the trio of Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and Robin Lopez could be very productive as their talents mesh very well. I am excited to see what Hornacek can do with Jerian Grant who has the athletic ability and finishing ability around the rim to be the type of guard who can flourish under Hornacek. I’m already excited thinking about the amount of pick and rolls Grant and Porzingis are going to run with each other. Why didn’t they do this more last year? Oh yeah, Kurt Rambis is a buster. That’s right. Anyway, let’s move along.
The Knicks have a few intriguing pieces that Hornacek should be able to use effectively, and an entire FA period to help fill out the roster with more helpful pieces. There is a lot of reason to be optimistic about what he brings to the table and the situation as he and Phil try to rebuild this team. However, Hornacek’s departure from Phoenix raises several questions about his ability to get through to a team. Whether it’s fair or not, the team regressed every year he coached it and completely disintegrated by the time he was fired. The team lived in turmoil by year three and multiple players demanded trades. How much of that we can attribute to Hornacek? I don’t know. Could it have been just a bad situation? Perhaps. Could it have been a front office issue? Maybe. Could it be the stench left by the brutal Robert Sarver? I guess. Does Hornacek have trouble getting through to players thus making it easy to tune him out? I don’t know.
What I do know? Jeff Hornacek is the Knicks head coach and he isn’t Kurt Rambis. Thus this piece is the optimistic, peaceful piece of writing that it is and not littered with depression and four letter words. Praise him for I am thankful.