Out of nowhere, the New York Knicks are reportedly on the verge of an intriguing hire for their head coach, according to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report. After firing Derek Fisher halfway through his second season and kicking around the idea of letting interim coach Kurt Rambis bumble through as the full-time coach, Phil Jackson and company are reportedly set to hire Jeff Hornacek to be their main guy on the sideline.
Breaking: Knicks will hire Jeff Hornacek as head coach, per NBA source.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) May 18, 2016
On Hornacek-Knicks: It's "as close as humanly possible," per source, tho not official. Deal is expected soon, barring any unforeseen snags.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) May 18, 2016
One source, however, says it's not exactly a done deal just yet.
FYI: A source close to Jeff Hornacek says talks still on-going. No deal as of yet. "Not sure why all these reports out there," source said.— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) May 19, 2016
Assuming we are close to hearing an official announcement, here are five things to know about Hornacek, who has a career coaching record of 101-112, heading to the Knicks:
1. This seems like a fine hire
Hornacek had a fantastic first season with the Suns, and it's hard to blame him for what happened afterward. The front office made his job difficult by sticking him with three similarly talented point guards -- Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas -- and then disgruntled forward Markieff Morris. Maybe he could have managed all of that better, but he deserved another chance in a different situation. Judging by the way his Suns pushed the ball and spaced the floor, maybe he's the right guy to modernize the Knicks.
2. Uh, what about the triangle?
Jackson has talked endlessly about the value of "system basketball," but that's not how Hornacek's Suns played. In his 14-year career, Hornacek never played in the triangle offense. The biggest question hanging over this hire is whether or not he took this job with the understanding that he would have to run Jackson's favored system.
If this is Hornacek coaching his way, that's one thing. If this is him with Rambis as an assistant coach, still trying to force Jackson's offense on a roster that might not be built for it, it is another thing entirely. It is impossible to properly evaluate New York's decision without knowing what Jackson and Hornacek have planned.
3. What does this mean for Phil Jackson?
Since before the regular season even ended, reports indicated that Jackson wanted Rambis to coach the Knicks. It was positioned as Jackson vs. owner James Dolan, who reportedly was not sold on Rambis. Until New York fans hear otherwise, they have to wonder if Jackson might have lost that battle. There are rumors that Jackson could bolt for the Los Angeles Lakers after this season, and they happen to have hired a coach with whom Jackson is rather familiar: Luke Walton.
It would be extremely premature to say this means Jackson has lost any power or is on the way out the door. This is a surprising move from the Knicks, though, and it could indicate a philosophical change.
4. This is a fine hire, yes, but an unexpected one at that
Not only was Hornacek going up against the teacher's pet in Rambis, he also had to beat out former Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel and former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt, who both interviewed for the job.
Vogel was considered the best free-agent coach out there, and he grew up in New Jersey. Blatt would have been a splashy hire, too, and he is close friends with Knicks general manager Steve Mills, his teammate at Princeton. Hornacek's interview must have been incredible.
5. Hornacek has a tough road ahead of him
New York doesn't have any draft picks, and it's unclear whether or not it will be able to attract big-name free agents. Carmelo Anthony is a wonderful talent, but he's 31 years old and wants to win now. The Knicks' roster is not equipped to do that.
The bright side: there's not a coach in the world who wouldn't want to work with the 20-year-old Kristaps Porzingis. He could be a future franchise player, and he seems made for New York.
If Hornacek's Knicks play a similar style to his Suns teams, then Porzingis would probably become a stretch 5. That might not be great for Robin Lopez's future in New York, and Hornacek probably would want a faster point guard than Jose Calderon running the show, too. Rebuilding the Knicks would be so much easier if Anthony was traded, but he continues to insist he won't waive his no-trade clause.