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Column: State of the Knicks

By Mike Peng
On April 24, 2014

It's beginning to sound like a broken record: The New York Knicks are going through personnel changes again.
This marks the ninth time since James Dolan became the owner of the Knickerbockers in 1999 that the team is in search for a new head coach.
Granted, the franchise and its fans are desperate for a taste of winning that they haven't had for over four decades, but that is not to say they have had scrubs for coaches over the past 15 years.
Names like Jeff Van Gundy, Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown have come and gone before delivering an NBA title to Manhattan, not to mention the number of changes that have taken place in the front office as well.
If you don't see where I'm going with this yet, then I'll make it clear now: The problem isn't with the players, coaches or general managers; it's with Dolan himself.
How else could anyone possibly explain the lack of success by the Knicks despite undergoing all types of changes underneath?
Considered as perhaps one of the worst owners in professional sports, Dolan's egomaniacal methods of running the Knicks have gotten the franchise nowhere during his tenure.
The Knicks have made the playoffs just six times in the last 15 years, and the NBA is not the most difficult league to crack through the postseason.
Let's not forget that Dolan is also the chairman of Madison Square Garden, a place often regarded as one of, if not, the most prestigious places in all of sports, but in the case of the Knicks under Dolan's management, it has become a toxic place where careers go to die.
Take Mike Woodson for example. The poor guy never really had a chance.
From replacing Mike D'Antoni in 2010 and helping the Knicks win their first playoff game in a decade, to putting up a 54-28 record the year after and a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference, Woodson was never embraced by Dolan as a permanent head coach.
It almost seemed like Woodson was set up for failure.
The Knicks picked up his option for the 2014-15 season last September, but did not bother to re-sign any of Woodson's assistants. Former general manager Glen Grunwald was also booted for no reasonable explanation in favor of Steve Mills.
Throw in J.R. Smith's off-season drama along with Carmelo Anthony's free agency talks and injuries surrounding the team, and it was almost expected that the Knicks would go on and have a woeful season.
But boy, what a bad time it is for the Knicks to be terrible.
In the one year that they have zero first-round picks and talents like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid coming out in the draft, the Knicks finished 37-45 and just missed the playoffs in an abysmal Eastern Conference.

Now with Anthony dangling in the free agency and futures uncertain for players like Smith and Stoudemire, the Knicks have really gotten themselves in a bind.
But give them credit for bringing in Phil Jackson as the President of Basketball Operations. That was perhaps the only thing the Knicks did right all year.
Jackson was promised "autonomy" over the team - and as he should - by Dolan when he first arrived in New York, but then came a few days ago when reports of Dolan clashing with Jackson over the latter's preference for Steve Kerr as the next head coach surfaced.
A word of advice to Dolan: Phil has got 11 rings. Let him do this thing.
The risks of hiring someone who has zero coaching experience are high, that's understandable, but Kerr is no slouch when it comes to basketball.
As the most accurate 3-point shooter in NBA history at 45 percent, Kerr is a five-time champion who played under Jackson and alongside Michael Jordan in Chicago. He is a great basketball mind whose knowledge and expertise on the sport ooze through his microphone whenever he's calling a game for Turner Sports.
Between 2007 and 2010, Kerr has also experienced success in the front office as he served as the Phoenix Suns' President of Basketball Operations and general manager. During his stint there, the Suns went 155-91 and advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2010.
Should Kerr be hired, he can also implement the triangle offense that has won Jackson all of his 11 titles into the Knicks. In order for it to have any success though, the Knicks must find a way to keep Anthony in New York.
The triangle offense is centered around one great wing player - like Jordan and Kobe Bryant - and one great high-post player, to create good spacing for everyone on the floor and allow the players to attack at will according to the defense.
In the Knicks case, that can be Anthony along with a possible acquisition of Pau Gasol or, in their wildest dreams, Kevin Love.
It may all sound easy on paper at the moment, but the Knicks will need everyone to buy in, and that includes the anxious Anthony and the restless Dolan.
It may also take some time for things to come to fruition, and that can be a frustrating feeling in a city filled with expectations of success, but patience and consistence is what paid off for teams like Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs.
Over 40 years without a title is almost deemed as unacceptable in the Big Apple, but dictating every facet of the team when it's not your job will not bring that title in any sooner.
The problem is at the top for the Knicks and unless that is improved, what happens with the rest of the team is almost moot.
So have a little trust and patience in your team and the pieces you've brought in, Dolan. Don't make yourself and the Knicks a laughingstock more than you already are, and maybe, just maybe, the four-decade-long title drought can end sooner than later.
 


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