It’s May of 2018 and David Fizdale was just hired as the New York Knicks new head coach. Knicks fans rejoice as Fizdale is one of the most highly regarded basketball minds in the NBA. He is described as a great guy and a great player development coach. Fizdale is highly attributed by some of the NBA’s greatest players and coaches like: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Steve Kerr, Erik Spoelstra, and even the great Gregg Popovich. Knicks fans are filled with excitement and hope as they believe their hopes to compete in the coming years may have just been rejuvenated. Fizdale was brought in to coach a healing Kristaps Porzingis, a struggling sophomore in Frank Ntilikina, and a team filled with players trying to pave their way into the league. But let’s fast forward to November of 2019.
Coach Fizdale is fired after coaching the Knicks for just over a year. In 104 games, Coach Fiz led the Knicks to a 21-83 record. Now don’t get me wrong, by no means are the Knicks anywhere close to a playoff contending team, but what really went wrong with Fizdale’s time in the big apple? Was it simply bad coaching? Were players not performing? Here are the facts:
In February of 2019, the Knicks traded away a rising superstar in Kristaps Porzingis, whom was still trying to make his way back onto the hardwood after suffering an ACL tear the year prior. The Knicks received Dennis Smith Jr, DeAndre Jordan, Wesley Matthews and a few future first-round draft selections in exchange, but Dennis Smith is another player who is still trying to make his statement in the league. DeAndre Jordan is a former All-star caliber player, but that isn’t the case anymore, and Wesley Matthews was released just a few days after the trade per his request. So Fizdale never was given the opportunity to coach the Latvian super-star. So despite the trade acquisitions, the Knicks were still really bad finishing out the season on a 29-53 record in the 2018-19 season.
Following the 2018-19 season, the free agent class was booming with the likes of superstar players in Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, and Kemba Walker. The Knicks were specifically linked to Durant and Irving with Kawhi and Kemba lurking in the back as potential suitors for New York. The Knicks had their eyes set on this free agent class with Fizdale being used as one of their main recruitment methods. The Knicks cap space was massive and they were ready to spend. But what happens to the Knicks of course? Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sign to the cross town rival Brooklyn Nets. So what was the Knicks plan B? They signed Julius Randle to a three year, $63 million contract, Taj Gibson to a two-year $20 million contract, Marcus Morris to a one year, $15 million contract and the list goes on. This is looked at as another failure blamed on David Fizdale.
Now onto the 2019-20 season which is currently underway. The Knicks roster has somewhat of a different look than the year prior. There are all new signed players and the number three overall selection in R.J. Barrett. The Knicks were anticipated to be bad again, but not as bad as they are currently. Fizdale only managed to win the Knicks four games over a span of twenty-one total contests. Following their second consecutive forty plus point loss, Fizdale was relieved of his duties in New York.
So what is really wrong with the Knicks? Well, we won’t necessarily know until this season is concluded but a lot argue that Coach Fiz was the scapegoat in this mess. The Knicks have had twenty-nine total head coaches along their franchise history, with seven of them being from the last decade. So, here’s the million dollar question: is coaching really the source for the Knicks repeated losing seasons, or is it team management? We’ll have to wait and see.