When the New York Knicks lured legendary head coach and former Knick Phil Jackson back to the Big Apple in March of 2014, there were plenty of reasons to believe that the team’s troubles would soon be a thing of the past.
But nearly two years later, and less than 12 months removed from finishing Jackson’s first campaign as team president with the worst record in franchise history, the Knicks are a rudderless disaster with next to no hope for the immediate future.
Sure, Saturday’s visit to the Twin Cities produced a badly-needed victory that finally halted New York’s seven-game skid. But how excited are Knick-fans supposed to be about barely beating a 13th-place team like the 17-39 Minnesota Timberwolves?
Since bringing their record back to the .500 mark by winning consecutive overtime-affairs against the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers and Utah Jazz in mid-January, the Knicks have gone from potential playoff team to NBA punching-bag with losses in 11 of 13, plummeting to 12th in the Eastern Conference.
In his second season as New York’s head coach, Derek Fisher was well aware of the fact that Jackson wasn’t going to tolerate a repeat of last year’s 17-65 performance. At the very least, a strong push towards the playoffs in what was supposed to be a weak Eastern Conference was expected.
But this year’s East isn’t the haven for sub-.500 playoffs hopefuls that it has been in each of the past two seasons. And for some reason, Fisher didn’t think that failing to end New York’s three-year, playoff-drought was all that important, and ultimately, it cost him his job.
Now, just two games into the Kurt Rambis era and things somehow seem even worse after Jackson and company failed to add a single new face ahead of last Thursday’s trade deadline.
To be fair, the Knicks weren’t alone as the entire league lacked the pre-trade deadline drama that everyone was hoping for. But failing to add at least somebody who could help, even just to reassure fans that nobody in New York’s front office has given up, has reminded everyone how meaningless the team’s final 25 games will be.
Refusing to throw in the towel, or at least refusing to publicly admit that the current campaign is a complete bust, Carmelo Anthony was only interested in the positive after dropping 30 points and 11 rebounds in New York’s first win of February.
”I don’t want to try and think about [missing the playoffs] at this point,” said Anthony.
While Anthony’s comments are a great band-aid for anyone wondering if he’s still personally invested in the team’s long-term success, finding the right head coach to lead the Knicks through this seemingly-endless disaster is one of the only things that their fan-base wants to hear about right now.
If Knick fans could force the team to pursue a head coaching candidate chosen by popular vote, and the ”interim” tag isn’t removed from Rambis’ title, former Chicago Bulls’ head coach Tom Thibodeau would be that candidate.
Despite losing his job with the Bulls following their exit from last year’s playoffs, and being labelled as someone who can be difficult to work with, Thibodeau is easily the best option available as a former ”NBA Coach of The Year” who posted a record of 255-139 over five fairly successful seasons in Chicago.
Along with being a former Knicks’ assistant, and therefore aware of the often harsh and unforgiving environment surrounding this franchise, Thibodeau’s no-nonsense approach might be exactly what New York needs after failing under a former player like Fisher who lacked experience.
But much like an over-the-hill heavyweight who’s answered the bell a few too many times, the Knicks and their loyal to a fault fan-base must now stumble through the final 25 games of their season knowing only that the future cannot resemble the past.