New York Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek finally got a chance to run the team his own way. With Phil Jackson being let go as team president in the offseason, Hornacek ditched the triangle offense forced upon him, and instilled a new look.
Unfortunately for Hornacek, running a new offense with different faces hasn’t resulted in any more wins. New York is currently 11th in the Eastern Conference with a 24-38 record.
What’s worse is that he’ll coach the remainder of the season without All-Star forward Krstaps Porzingis. The 7’3″ Latvian big man tore his ACL and won’t be back until later in next season’s campaign.
All of this has caused speculation that the Knicks will cut ties with Hornacek in the offseason. And this leaves them looking for a new coach.
According to a report by the New York Post’s Marc Berman, this future coach could be Doc Rivers. Berman spoke to a former associate of Rivers, who said that the ex-Knick wouldn’t mind coaching the team he played for.
“Doc enjoyed his time there,’’ said the anonymous associate. “He respects the city, he respects the organization.’’
How would This Deal Work for Rivers and the Knicks?
The biggest roadblock to luring Rivers to the Knicks is that he still has one year left on his L.A. Clippers contract. And Doc is unlikely to give up this year, considering that he’ll earn $10 million next season.
New York would have to offer a draft pick as compensation to even pursue Rivers.
But it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility, considering that the 2008 NBA title-winning coach lost his GM title to Lawrence Frank last year. Combining this with how the Clippers got rid of their core, they might not mind doing the same with their long-time coach.
L.A. traded Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets in the offseason. More recently, they shipped Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons.
Rivers Has Done His Best Coaching in 2018
Many wondered if the Clippers were tanking when they traded away an unhappy Paul, and later got rid of Griffin. But team owner Steve Ballmer has insisted all along that he doesn’t want to bottom out.
Rivers has worked hard to make Ballmer’s goal a reality, guiding the team to a 33-28 record. They’re currently 33-28 and just one game behind the Denver Nuggets for the Western Conference’s eighth playoff seed.
L.A. consultant Jerry West believes that Rivers should be in the 2018 Coach of the Year conversation. After all, he’s taken a team of newcomers, including Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, and Avery Bradley, into playoff consideration.
Rivers may be on thin ice in L.A., given the team’s interest in changing the franchise’s direction. But he’s still a hot coaching commodity after the job he’s done with this mix-matched Clippers roster. And it would be no surprise if he drew further interest from the Knicks.
Rivers Might Bring Mike Woodson to New York
Former Knicks head coach Mike Woodson currently serves as an assistant to Rivers. And this would only sweeten the deal for New York if they can bring both coaches aboard.
Woodson, Rivers’ top assistant, was the Knicks’ most successful head coach since Jeff Van Gundy quit in 2001. Woodson led the Knicks to a 54-28 record in the 2012-13 season. He also rallied a team with multiple injuries the following season to only miss the playoffs by one game.
If Rivers were to bring along Mike Woodson as his associate coach, it’d be more enticing than the current Hornacek-Kurt Rambis pairing.
Nevertheless, Jackson decided to replace Woodson with Derek Fisher for the 2014-15 campaign. And Knicks owner James Dolan is still writing Fisher checks, long after he’s been gone.
Dolan Has Always Kept Tabs on Rivers
Another reason why New York may continue pursuing Rivers is that Dolan has always been interested in him. Rivers, who played for the Knicks from 1992-95, has impressed Dolan ever since winning the league title in 2008 with the Boston Celtics.
As for Rivers, he’s enamored with Porzingis, whom many call the “unicorn” due to his ability to play outside at 7’3″. Following a Nov. 20 game, where Porzingis scored 25 points in New York’s route of the Clippers, Rivers had plenty of good things to say about him.
“He’s just a beast,” Rivers said following the game. “I mean he’s going to be, or he is, one of the great ones now. He’s just going to keep getting better.
“You look at his numbers and you forget his age, I think, and what he’s doing. It’s just a scratch. He’s going to keep getting better and better. And that’s going to be scarier for all of us.”
Here’s why Rivers Won’t Coach the Knicks in 2018-19
Everything I’ve covered up to this point offers compelling evidence that Rivers will indeed coach New York in the near future. But we also have to look at the reasons why this won’t happen too.
Again, Doc is still under contract in Los Angeles for another season. And he’s not going to walk away from another year where he’s making coach/GM combination money.
Another thing to consider is if Rivers would still be in love with this coaching job with Porzingis currently nursing a torn ACL. Odds are that he comes back fine from his injury. But it could make sense for Rivers to wait another season and see how Porzingis’ return goes when he can start playing again next winter.
On the Knicks’ side, they have to consider whether it’s worth compensating L.A. with the draft pick to go after their coach.
Furthermore, they may have another decision if Rivers decides that he wants GM responsibilities again in the next gig. This is a big issue considering that many don’t believe Rivers’ strong suit is putting together rosters.
Weighing the pros and cons, there’s no guarantee that we’ll see Rivers on the New York sidelines. But then again, we certainly can’t rule out the possibility when considering that Dolan likes Rivers’ coaching abilities.