The Cyclone legend Jeff Hornacek — who also had by far the greatest NBA career of any former Iowa State player — is reportedly returning to the league next year as the incoming coach of the struggling New York Knicks.
Hornacek was fired by the Phoenix Suns mid-season this year after the Suns came out playing exceptionally poorly following two previous seasons in which they had played an attractive, fast-paced, high-scoring brand of ball and been a borderline playoff-contending team. His record as a coach currently stands at 101-112.
Hornacek’s hiring ends an at-times bizarre coaching search carried out by mercurial Knicks GM Phil Jackson, who has yet to make his mark as an executive after an historic coaching run that landed him eleven championship rings.
Jackson had publicly stated that he was seeking a coach that would run the triangle offense that he employed when coaching the Jordan/Pippen-era Bulls and Kobe/Shaq-era Lakers.
Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, however, displayed a willingness to leverage his power publicly by stating that he thought the coaching search should involve non-triangle aficionados (which really shouldn’t be controversial, Carmelo is in the right here of course).
Ultimately, it appears that the voices of team owner Jim Dolan and Carmelo Anthony prevailed over Jackson’s stubborn commitment to a particular system.
That being said, is Hornacek a good fit for the Knicks? With the Suns he ran an up-tempo offense that emphasized fast break points, which is exactly the opposite of what the Knicks did last year. In order to play to Hornacek’s perceived offensive strengths the Knicks would need to dramatically upgrade their guard personnel, for sure. Jose Calderon and Langston Galloway are smart enough but they certainly are not fast or particularly athletic. The Knicks’ most intriguing asset at the moment is the young, tall, and sharp-shooting Kristaps Porzingis. Putting Porzingis in position to get a lot of touches and post-ups will be critical to Hornacek convincing the front office that he’s the man for the job.
For Hornacek to succeed he will need three things right off the bat: 1) support from Phil Jackson in the form of the GM being hands-off and letting him find his bearings; 2) major improvements in the backcourt roster; 3) and for Carmelo Anthony to be willing to share the ball with Porzingis and put trust in the youngster.