Mills' Future With Knicks Uncertain; Team Criticized For Fizdale Fallout
Knicks President Steve Mills "likely will be let go after the season" unless the team shows marked improvement, and Owner James Dolan "will probably make another run" at Raptors President Masai Ujiri, according to a source cited by Marc Berman of the N.Y. POST. The Knicks fired coach David Fizdale over the weekend, and Mills is "on shaky ground." Whether Dolan ordered the firing of Fizdale is "unclear, but it was noteworthy Mills was not quoted in a terse press release issued Friday night." Mills also "did not meet with reporters to address the Fizdale firing," leading some to question if he is "still the spokesman for the franchise" (N.Y. POST, 12/8). In N.Y., Stefan Bondy noted the front office that "loved to preach 'accountability' did not address the media" about firing Fizdale before Saturday's game against the Pacers. It is a "strange PR decision, perhaps unprecedented, not to have an executive explain a decision to fire a coach one-quarter into the season." It also is a "slap in the face of a fanbase that'd been sold Fizdale as a draw for superstars, a development guru and the key to sustainable success" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/8).
IN HIDING: In N.Y., Kevin Kernan wrote Mills and GM Scott Perry "remained in hiding Saturday night." Kernan: "Clueless and gutless is no way to go through life but that is what we have with the Knicks. Can you think of any other team that fired a coach and did not address the change in any way?" Knicks fans also "play a role in this debacle because they still come to the Garden." Kernan: "Why?" (N.Y. POST, 12/8). On Long Island, Barbara Barker wrote, "Knicks fans trusted Mills and Perry. ... They bought into the plan, and now the plan is not working. They deserve an explanation" (NEWSDAY, 12/8). THE ATHLETIC's Frank Isola wrote Mills' "expiration date is long overdue" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/7).
COACHING NOT THE ISSUE: In N.Y., Kristian Winfield wrote Fizdale was "another fall guy for ineptitude that stretches higher on the totem pole." Mills and Perry "did not put their head coach in a position to succeed this summer" after the team failed to sign free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/7). The DAILY NEWS' Bondy wrote the "true problem with the Knicks" is that they have "no plan." Bondy: "No real plan, at least." Mills is a "survivor, but he appears to be all out of excuses for the embarrassing performances of his ill-conceived roster." Allowing him to make another hire would be "another giant mistake." Speculation has "already started about several candidates who might run the Knicks' front office should Mills not last after this season," including Ujiri, Sam Presti (Thunder), Daryl Morey (Rockets), Trajan Langdon (Pelicans), Bob Myers (Warriors) and league office exec Kiki Vandeweghe (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/7). ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said if Dolan allows Mills to "go out and do a coaching search," he "takes himself out of the running this summer to go pursue an elite NBA executive to take over the Knicks" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 12/7).
PRESSURE ON DOLAN MOUNTS: ESPN.com's Wojnarowksi noted since Dolan's first full season in '99-00, the team has had 12 head coaches, "tied for most in the NBA over that span" (ESPN.com, 12/6). THE ATHLETIC's John Hollinger wrote, "The next coach won't matter either, until James Dolan realizes he can't run a basketball franchise and empowers somebody competent to do it for him" (THEATHLETIC.com, 12/6). USA TODAY's Jeff Zillgitt wrote the Knicks roster "provided by the front office is an insufficient mish-mash of players ill-equipped to win in the NBA," and the "one constant throughout season after season of Knicks dysfunction" is Dolan (USA TODAY, 12/7). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ben Cohen noted the "blame ultimately falls with the one person who controls the team." Dolan is a "reviled figure among tortured Knicks fans" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 12/7). Bondy notes the "only smart solution for Dolan" is to "hire an accomplished executive and grant that person full autonomy" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 12/9). NBCSPORTS.com's Kurt Helin wrote, "There is no right guy. At least there will not be until James Dolan hires a top-flight, experienced executive to really build that culture and foundation, then gets out of the way and lets his hire do it" (NBCSPORTS.com, 12/7). In N.Y., Michael Powell wrote the "wisest move" for Dolan is the "one he is most likely to avoid." Powell: "He should fire himself" (N.Y. TIMES, 12/7). NBA TV's Casey Stern said of Dolan, "How are you supposed to create continuity if you're not giving the keys to the guy who's coming in to drive it?" ("Gametime Live," NBA TV, 12/6).
NEXT UP: On Long Island, Steve Popper notes for a coach, the Knicks "still have a bankroll to lure a name." Some "floated already" include Mark Jackson, Jason Kidd, Kenny Smith and Jeff Van Gundy. ESPN's Chauncey Billups is "not expected to be interested but could draw interest, and even coaches with successful resumes such as Tom Thibodeau could get consideration" (NEWSDAY, 12/9). CNBC's Young & Setty reported Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon is an "interesting name" if a "four-or-five-year deal would be sufficient" (CNBC.com, 12/6).