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Jeff Hornacek Seems To Be Right Coach For Knicks…But Is He?

Late last week it was reported that Jeff Hornacek would be the next New York Knicks head coach replacing interim coach Kurt Rambis. At first glance, the hire seemed to be out of nowhere since Hornacek and Knicks president Phil Jackson has no prior relationship and Hornacek doesn’t know nor run the Triangle Offense. The reported move had many in the basketball world scratching their heads. Before any judgments can come down, let’s take an analytical approach to the reported hire.

First take a look at previous coaches who went from coaching the Phoenix Suns to the New York Knicks, courtesy of ESPN:


So Hornacek has that working against him already. Also Hornacek, a career 40 percent shooter from three-point range, has a losing record in his brief two and a half year coaching career which is something that already scares many Knick fans. After leading Phoenix to 48 wins during the 2013-2014 season, Hornacek encountered numerous issues in year two as the Suns won just 39 games the following year. After a 14-35 start this season, Hornacek was fired but many of Phoenix’s issues was not Hornacek’s fault however. A flawed rosters that featured as many as six guards in his rotation and the sudden decision by Phoenix management to rebuild after a 48 win season doomed the first-time coach in only his second season. With all that said there is a silver lining behind hiring Hornacek.

The major plus behind hiring Hornacek is a faster pace of offense. The Knicks ranked at or near the bottom of the NBA in offensive pace running the Triangle Offense over the last two seasons. Over the years it has been shown that with the right personnel, the Triangle Offense could work (Jordan, Pippen, Kobe, Shaq). The problem with that is the Knicks never had the right personnel for the Triangle Offense at any point of the Phil Jackson regime. While Jackson wants his offense ran with efficiency and perfection, the time may have come to think outside the box and bring in someone far removed from the Triangle. Derek Fisher was fired due to his attempting to tweak the offense a bit and Jackson disagreeing with the tweaks. Did Jackson have a change of heart? In Hornacek, he must have.

Running an up-tempo offense would actually benefit the team and the two stars of the Knicks, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. In the stagnant Triangle Offense, there was a lot of standing around and not much motion on the offensive end. Many times the ball was given to Carmelo and everyone else just stood around watching him and not trying to get open or move off the ball. With Denver under George Karl, who ran an offense similar to Hornacek, Anthony had some of his greatest games and seasons. While Anthony is averaging a point more per game with the Knicks (25.2 as opposed to 24.8 with Denver) it comes with Anthony taking more shots per game than he did in Denver (one extra field goal attempted and two more three-pointers attempted per game). More high percentage shots and efficient shot selection was what made Anthony into one of the NBA’s best scorers which is why he is looking forward to under Jeff Hornacek.

“I played against him (Hornacek) a couple of times when he was the head coach out there in Phoenix,” Anthony said in an interview Saturday with NBC 4. “Everybody knows he likes to play an up-tempo pace of game, likes to get out in transition, likes to speed the game up a lot. So from that standpoint, I’ll definitely be looking forward to that.”

The reported hire of Jeff Hornacek as Knicks head coach shows that Phil Jackson is either conceding that the Triangle Offense didn’t work in New York or this was a hire made by upper management of The Garden i.e. James Dolan. While Rambis seemed to be the man for the job (and is reportedly considering staying on as an assistant to Hornacek), a curveball was thrown and it seems that Hornacek is the one who will lead the Knicks for the next few years. This is a risky hire for everyone involved and only time will tell whether it work or whether the Knicks will be moving forward with a new organizational setup sooner than later.


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Kahlil Thomas

Kahlil is the College Sports Editor for as well as a columnist, hosting the Bump 'N Run column once per week. He also co-hosts a weekly basketball podcast, The Box Out, every Thursday evening with fellow writer Jason Cordner.
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