Villanova coach Jay Wright


Schmeelk: Ranking Knicks Rumored Head Coach Candidates

Wright Is The Pipe Dream; Steer Clear Of Jackson

John Schmeelk
April 13, 2018 - 10:18 am

The Knicks fired Jeff Hornacek Thursday, and now they need a new head coach. Many reporters, both local and national, have compiled a list of potential names that general manager Scott Perry and team president Steve Mills might reach out to. I rank them in my order of preference here with what I think the odds are they will actually get the job.


Jay Wright: I wrote in detail last week why I thought the Villanova coach was the best option for the Knicks. Wright's teams shoot a lot of 3s and play good defense, and the former Hofstra coach knows New York. He is also extremely unlikely to leave a great job at Villanova. The Daily News' Stefan Bondy reported the Knicks will reach out to Wright, and they will hope he doesn’t hang up the phone quickly. Odds: 50-1


David Fizdale: I put Fizdale here because he had success in Memphis the one full year he coached there, winning 43 games with the league’s seventh-ranked defense. He has good roots learning under Pat Riley in Miami and has a great reputation around the league. He did have a falling out with Marc Gasol, which many believe was the reason for his ouster from the Grizzlies after just 19 games this year. Odds: 5-1

MORE: Schmeelk: Knicks' Season A Colossal Failure In Every Possible Way


David Blatt: A college teammate of Mills at Princeton, Blatt is one of the most decorated coaches in European basketball history. He had great success in Cleveland and would have won a title there before LeBron James ran him out of town. He can coach, but will it work in the NBA? He doesn’t have a relationship with Perry, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. Odds: 10-1

David Blatt

Jerry Stackhouse: The former NBA swingman was an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors before becoming the head coach of their G League team. He brought the Raptors 905 to two straight league finals and is well thought of around the NBA. But there is a risk hiring someone who hasn’t been the head coach of a team at a high level of competition. Odds: 8-1

Jeff Van Gundy: Van Gundy hasn’t coached in the NBA since 2007, when he was with the Rockets, but he has stayed around the game the last decade as a broadcaster. He also coached the national team in 2017 and seemed to enjoy it. Based on what he says during ABC broadcasts, Van Gundy, who coached the Knicks from 1995-02, seems to understand how the NBA has evolved over the years, especially offensively. He knows how to coach defense as well. There’s a risk here whenever someone is out of coaching this long. Odds: 25-1

LISTEN: 'City Game' Podcast: Knicks, Nets Season Wrap-Up And Hornacek Firing


Ettore Messina: A four-time EuroLeague champion as a head coach overseas, Messina has been an assistant with Gregg Popovich in San Antonio since 2014. He is an intriguing candidate with former head coaching experience and has the benefit of learning the nuances of American basketball from a legend in Popovich. Odds: 30-1

Doc Rivers: There’s no doubt he knows how to coach, but he is still under contract with the Clippers and there’s no indication the Clippers want him out after he did a good job with a team that traded away Blake Griffin. Odds: 25-1


Monty Williams: A respected coach in his five seasons in New Orleans, he only finished with more than 35 wins and made the playoffs twice (46 wins in 2011 and 45 in 2015). Williams stepped away from coaching in 2016 after his wife was killed in a car accident, but he's reportedly looking to get back into being a head coach. A solid choice but nothing special here. Odds: 35-1

David Vanterpool: A 45-year-old assistant in Portland, Vanterpool is well respected around the league, and as ESPN's Ian Begley pointed out, he gets a lot of credit for developing Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. He’s not a name but could very well be a good head coach. Odds: 40-1

MORE: Schmeelk: Moving On From Jeff Hornacek Was The Right Move

Ime Udoka: An up-and-coming Spurs assistant who has only been on the bench as an assistant coach since 2012. Much like with Vanterpool, he has no head coaching experience, which makes him a big risk. Odds: 40-1

Adrian Griffin: Only mentioned by the New York Post's Marc Berman, Griffin has been an assistant for four different teams and was on the staff when Scott Perry was in Orlando. Hard to see where he has earned a head coaching spot. Odds: 50-1


Mark Jackson: A name much connected with the Knicks, Jackson is a native of the city and played for the Knicks as well. He had success in three seasons as head coach in Golden State, winning 50 games and a playoff series there. After Jackson was let go, owner Joe Lacob said he couldn’t get along with anyone who worked for the organization. He also runs an archaic isolation-heavy offense. Don’t rule this out, even if you want to. Odds: 10-1

Mark Jackson

Craig Robinson: The Knicks' vice president of player development and Michelle Obama's older brother has college head coaching experience at Brown and Oregon State, but this wouldn’t make any sense on any level and would be a bad signal the Garden is not operating in a good way. Odds: 75-1

It would appear as though Perry isn’t interested in making a splash or going after a big name, and that’s a good thing. The Knicks should not worry about winning the press conference. If the new coach wins games, fans won’t care what his name is. Do not be surprised if the process takes a while. It would be worth it if the Knicks hire the right guy.

My prediction? David Fizdale.

For everything Knicks, Giants, and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk