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Getting to know the many candidates for next head coach of the Knicks

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May the best coach win.

Oklahoma City Thunder v New York Knicks
“What about me?”
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Leon Rose and his front office cronies intend to leave no stone unturned in their search for the perfect person to roam the sidelines next season for the Knicks, with reports saying the franchise plans to interview as many as 10 potential head coaches, including multiple Gregg Popovich disciples.

This is promising news, because the last few times the Knicks had a vacancy at head coach, they didn’t exactly run completely thorough search processes. Take, for example, the time Phil Jackson hired Derek Fisher as a rebound after being spurned by Steve Kerr, or when David Fizdale was brought on board because he convinced Steve Mills and Scott Perry that he could sell them used cars for an unbeatable price.

With a new team president serving as head honcho of basketball operations, the organization appears to be looking down every possible avenue in an attempt to gather as much information as possible before making a decision. Novel approach!

It was already known that the Knicks would consider current interim head coach Mike Miller, along with Tom Thibodeau, Mike Woodson and Kenny Atkinson.

That list has been expanded significantly, with a new crop of candidates that seems to swell every day.

The mere idea that the Knicks are running a full-fledged coaching search instead of just hiring some well-known name without doing much due diligence is cause for optimism. The fact that a number of the names are not well known to the layman is even better. If you’re the person running an actual NBA team, you should have more knowledge than the average basketball fan.

Alright, let’s look at the new candidates as we wonder which one will grace the sidelines as head coach of the New York Knicks whenever next season starts.

Ime Udoka

Udoka, 42, is a former NBA player who most recently served as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia 76ers. As a player, he totaled 316 total games across seven seasons, including eight games as a Knick in 2005-06, when he averaged 3 points and 2 rebounds in just over 14 minutes per contest.

Prior to joining Brett Brown’s staff in Philadelphia this year, he served as an assistant in San Antonio under Popovich, which in and of itself is an alluring bit of information. He would bring a championship pedigree, as he was on the Spurs’ staff for the 2014 title.

In San Antonio, Udoka is credited with having helped develop players like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Dejounte Murray, according to SNY’s Ian Begley. Maybe he could pull some Kawhi magic with Mitchell Robinson or Frank Ntilikina. Doesn’t hurt to dream.

Pat Delany

Delany has been an assistant coach in the NBA since 2014-15, having been employed by both the Charlotte Hornets and Orlando Magic, each time under head coach Steve Clifford.

He joined the Hornets after an impressive season as head coach of the Miami Heat’s G-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce. Under Delany’s leadership, the Skyforce went 31-19 and made the playoffs. The previous season, the Skyforce finished just 25-25. Delany was with the Heat organization, working under the likes of Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, for 11 total seasons, holding positions including advance scout and video coordinator.

Delany played college ball for four seasons at Division II Saint Anselm, where he finished as the school’s all-time assists leader with 731 dimes, according to his bio on the Hornets website. He graduated from college in 2002, meaning he’s probably about 40 years old. For some reason his age wasn’t obvious on the internet.

Chris Fleming

Fleming, 50, is the lead assistant coach for the Bulls, something that by itself doesn’t mean much, since Chicago is one of the eight teams that didn’t get invited to resume the 2019-20 season in Orlando come the end of July.

A former professional basketball player himself (with the German 2nd Division team QTSV), Fleming previously served as an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Nets under Atkinson, who is also under consideration for the Knicks’ head coaching position. Drama!

Before his time in Brooklyn, Fleming was an assistant coach for the Denver Nuggets for one season. He also has experience coaching the German men’s national team.

Becky Hammon

Hammon, 43, became the second female assistant coach in NBA history after Lisa Boyer when she joined Popovich’s staff in 2014. She played 16 seasons in the WNBA, including eight years with the New York Liberty,

Hammon averaged 14 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds and 1 steal in 450 total regular season games in the WNBA. In her final season, she hit all 35 free throws she took, which is pretty good.

Pau Gasol praised her in the Players Tribune back in May 2018, writing “to me, it would be strange if NBA teams were not interested in her as a head coach.”

Employing the first female NBA head coach would be great for public relations, especially considering how James Dolan managed to bungle the team’s most recent chance to score PR points, despite the fact that Steve Stoute is supposedly employed to help with the franchise’s public perception.

But while Hammon has been mentioned as a potential candidate, Marc Berman of the New York Post says she is not expected to interview, and is instead preparing for the NBA’s planned Disney extravaganza that’s supposed to begin at the end of next month.

Will Hardy

Hardy, 32, is also an assistant coach with the Spurs, and unlike Hammon he’s officially been given the green light by San Antonio to interview with the Knicks, according to ESPN.

Hardy has been with the Spurs for a decade, including four seasons as an assistant coach. He previously served as the team’s video coordinator from 2013-2015, and has coached the Spurs Summer League teams multiple times. He was on the coaching staff for Team USA at the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Hardy is highly valued within the Spurs organization, with Begley writing that “some in the coaching community see Hardy as the most likely internal candidate to replace legendary coach Gregg Popovich if/when Popovich decides to retire.”

Well then! Maybe the Knicks should make him an offer he can’t refuse. Then again, at 32-years-young, Hardy would be one of the most youthful coaches in NBA history. But he wouldn’t be the youngest ever.

Jamahl Mosley

Mosley has been an assistant coach for the Dallas Mavericks under Rick Carlisle for six years. Prior to the 2018-19 season, he was appointed defensive coordinator for the team, and planned the Mavs defensive strategy for every game. Mosley has coached the Mavs Summer League teams multiple times, and in 2017 in Las Vegas he led the group to the semifinals, according to his bio on the Mavs website.

Before joining Dallas, Mosely worked for four seasons as an assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers starting in 2010. Prior to that, he was a member of the Nuggets organization for five seasons, the last three of which saw him serve as an assistant coach and player development guru.

He played college ball in Colorado for four years starting in 1997-98, and wasn’t too shabby, improving from 4 points and 4 rebounds a game in year one to 14 points and 8 rebounds a game in year four. The timing of his college days means he’s also most likely around 40 years of age.

All in all, that makes 10 people the Knicks are reportedly considering right now. And that doesn’t even include the likes of Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Jason Kidd, which are names that have been bandied about but haven’t yet been confirmed to be receiving serious consideration or even an interview.

There’s no guarantee that using such a wide scope to search for the next Knicks coach will result in the right choice. And even if the team does pick someone who’s got the chops, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will find success with the roster they’re dealt.

Still, it’s good to see the front office is being thorough. Maybe the next head coach will stick around for awhile.