While other teams are restarting boring plods toward the playoffs this week, the Knicks have been busy contemplating who might replace their current head coach, considering a promotion for Allan Houston, and winning a legal battle against former franchise icon Charles Oakley.
The time for celebrating RJ Barrett’s monster performance in the Rising Stars Game is officially over. The second half of the 2019-20 NBA season is about to begin, the Knicks are 17-38, and the team is trying to transition into a new era.
Let’s dig into all the latest scuttlebutt coming out of the All-Star break.
Who is going to save us from Miller?
Ever since Steve Stoute got on the payroll, it’s become abundantly clear that Mike Miller’s days are numbered. Never mind that the team has improved in both offensive and defensive rating since he replaced David Fizdale, and definitely don’t mention how his record of 13-20 since taking over looks considerably nicer than the 4-18 mark his predecessor left behind in December.
Despite Miller’s best efforts, the Knicks appear to believe his .394 winning percentage just ain’t Broadway material. It certainly feels like the Knicks are going to go another direction this offseason, and a number of names are already lingering out there in the ether.
Among those names is Tom Thibodeau, who was an assistant coach for the Knicks between 1996 and 2004. Thibs is hungry for the opportunity to coach at Madison Square Garden, according to this story from Marc Berman of the New York Post.
“He really wants the Knick job,” a Thibodeau confidant said. “He can taste it and he may even be in the lead.”
Thibs has had a successful, though controversial, career as a head coach. He took Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals in his first year and made the playoffs every season he was in the Windy City. After he was fired from the Bulls, Thibodeau landed in Minnesota, where he made the playoffs once but was once again terminated before his contract had concluded.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said that Thibodeau is likely to receive strong consideration, and noted that Thibs has a connection with supposed incoming team president Leon Rose. Thibs is represented by Creative Arts Agency, which is the very organization Rose is leaving to join the Knicks.
Thibodeau is well-known for focusing on the defensive side of the ball and keeping his best players on the court until their legs fall off. He’s 352-246 in his coaching career, good for a .589 winning percentage. The Knicks have finished a season with a better winning percentage than that once in the last 20 years.
Maybe Thibodeau would be a motivating presence who also brings coaching chops, but maybe he flames out in a fashion we haven’t even conceived of yet. He could be worth a shot.
Other coaches being floated out there include Jeff Van Gundy (nostalgia is big nowadays!), Villinova’s Jay Wright (he “has no interest in the Knicks,” according to Berman), Kentucky’s John Calipari (even Calipari’s former Wildcat Kevin Knox doesn’t think that’s going to happen), Mark Jackson (Michael Scott screaming “no!” GIF), and Mike Woodson (don’t hate it, but this would be surprising).
There is still plenty of time left in this current season, so expect more names to emerge in the coming days, weeks and months.
One name that hasn’t been tossed out there yet is Patrick Ewing, who is currently enjoying a head coaching gig at Georgetown. Perhaps someday the Knicks will give the Big Fella a look.
Houston, once a consistent bucket maker whose career was claimed too early by injuries, has been with the Knicks’ front office in some capacity since 2008. He’s taken on many roles, including assistant to the president for basketball operations and assistant general manager, and has served as general manager for the Westchester Knicks since the G-League affiliate was formed in 2015.
According to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, Houston might be in line for a front office promotion of some kind, although details were scarce.
Allan Houston has emerged as a candidate for a front office promotion, a league source told the Daily News. Plus other news about shakeup.https://t.co/B7Fw3Esga2— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) February 19, 2020
The G-League Knicks have actually been pretty darn good with Houston at the helm, notching three playoff appearances in six seasons and a having a host of players receive call ups to the NBA.
Houston has lived through the many regimes that have tried to turnaround the Knicks under James Dolan, and that fact alone is a little unnerving. Still, most former Knicks with a connection to the team today merely serve as brand ambassadors who sit in courtside seats, hand out oversized checks at halftime and assist with fan events, so the actual experience Houston has shouldn’t be discounted.
Oak didn’t fare as well in court as he used to on the court
It’s been more than three years since James Dolan had Charles Oakley forcibly removed from MSG during a game against the Los Angeles Clippers, but despite Oakley’s best efforts, the big man’s lawsuit against Dolan has been dismissed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
According to the order from Federal Judge Richard J. Sullivan, Oakley failed to meet the legal standards for his allegations, and as owner of the property Dolan has the right to eject anyone from the premises if he feels the need to do so.
Here’s a chunk from the judge’s order that pretty much explains everything you need to know:
From its inception, this case has had the feel of a public relations campaign, with the parties seemingly more interested in the court of public opinion than the merits of their legal arguments. That is perhaps understandable, given the personal and public nature of the dispute.
But while basketball fans in general, and Knicks fans in particular, are free to form their own opinions about who was in the right and whether Oakley’s ejection was motivated by something more than the whims of the team’s owner, the fact remains that Oakley has failed to allege a plausible legal claim that can meet federal pleading standards.
Madison Square Garden Co. issued a statement thanking the court for its dismissal of the case and implying Dolan and Oakley should make amends, but Oakley isn’t one to accept a loss without first putting in a complete effort. He plans to appeal, according to his attorney.
Madison Square Garden statement on Charles Oakley’s civil suit being dismissed by a judge today: “We thank the court for its ruling. This was an incident that no one was happy about. Maybe now there can be peace between us.”— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 19, 2020
Statement from Charles Oakley’s lawyer, Doug Wigdor: ‘Charles is not one to give up. While we are disappointed with the ruling, it’s just the beginning of the fourth quarter & we are confident that we can turn this around with an appeal that we plan to file in the coming days.’— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) February 19, 2020
For what it’s worth, Dolan has yet to actually apologize to Oakley. And even though Oakley might have gotten a little more upset than he needed to on that fateful night, a simple, heartfelt “I’m sorry for siccing my security guards on you, banning you from the arena and calling you an alcoholic” could go a long way.
The second half of the season starts Friday night against the Indiana Pacers at home. Here’s hoping that the sun is shining just beyond the horizon.