I’ve had this argument with friends and family.
I’ve had it at my favorite sports bar, Turnmill, just talking sports with fellow New Yorkers. I’ve had it many, many times with co-workers in other cities.
Apparently, I have always been wrong. Or I’ve been told I was wrong so many times that I started having doubts.
Not now. Not this time.
This time I think there is a smart, patient management team in charge of a New York franchise. This management team has a long view of success.
They are not interested in being hamsters on a wheel. They want to get somewhere good. And when they arrive, they want to stay.
When Mills and Perry announced they were not retaining the honorable Jeff Hornacek as head coach, the team president made this comment:
“We just thought there was an opportunity to get someone who really fit where we want to be three to five years from now.”
Three to five years?!?
While Twitter lit up like photographer’s flashes anytime someone named Kardashian steps out with a new beau, I was thrilled to hear those words.
Let’s be clear. I hate losing. At anything. I cheated in Monopoly as a kid. Against my sisters.
I don’t expect – nor could I stomach – the Knicks going through three more seasons of non-playoff basketball. But I’ll take some short-term pain to make sure the Knicks are built to be contenders for years to come.
That’s been my argument. I’ve always believed that New York sports fans would embrace such an approach.
I’ve argued that trading for superstars that are playing the back nine of the career just to make a one or two-season run at a title is bad business. I’ve argued that throwing money for a free agent name to make a splash only empties the pool. I’ve argued that hiring a coach because he’s got great name recognition is folly.
And I’ve argued that New Yorkers are smart enough to understand that a team needs to be built from the ground up. If the foundation isn’t sound, it doesn’t matter if the building has more amenities than a luxury hotel.
It takes a little longer to build something solid, something sustainable. That’s the path Mills and Perry are on. They are well into the process of searching for a new coach, someone that can relate to players and develop young talent.
“We’re going to be looking for a coach who holds the players accountable and his coaching staff accountable,” Perry said. “Not only a good basketball mind but a very skilled communicator. A guy who can connect very well with his players and is equally aligned with wanting to be a very strong defensive-minded team.”
It does not rankle me the least that some two weeks after Hornacek’s termination the Knicks remain without a coach. This is a major decision for this management team, which means this a perfect opportunity for them to back up their words with action.
Every indication points to Mills and Perry taking a patient, prudent, logical approach to this hire. There have been some high-profile names associated with the Knicks job and one of them might turn out to be the best hire.
But there is so much more to this position at this moment in the franchise’s storied history than being able to flourish in the world’s largest media market. There’s more than hiring a coach that will not be swayed by the demands of players, the pressure to win, the agendas some media outlets might take.
According to reports, David Fizdale, Mark Jackson, Kenny Smith, Jerry Stackhouse and Mike Woodson have been interviewed. David Blatt and Mike Budenholzer could be interviewed in the coming days.
There might be assistant coaches on teams currently in the playoffs that have caught the eye of Mills and Perry. There’s no reason not to wait for them to become available.
There’s no reason to make a hasty decision. It would be the kind of approach that has prevented teams in every sport from attaining sustainable success.
“When you talk about building a successful team that is sustainable, patience is required,” Perry said. “You don’t skip steps. There’s a lot that goes into building a successful basketball team in the NBA.
“There are no quick fixes. That has been tried a number of times here in the past. I think it’s important to remain disciplined.’’
The key is finding the right coach, one that has the fortitude to handle some adversity, yet stay the course. The 76ers found that individual in Brett Brown. The Celtics found Brad Stevens.
The Knicks version of that coach is out there.
He doesn’t have to win the press conference or convince us he’s the smartest guy in the room every night. He has to work with Mills, Perry and the players to build something that will have the Knicks in the upper echelon of the NBA on a consistent basis.
If that takes a little longer, so be it. I’m willing to wait. And I bet the vast majority of Knicks’ fans are smart enough to know by now that substance beats style every time.
“Unlike in the past when you’re constantly trying to hit home runs and striking out, this is an opportunity for us to build something from the ground up and is sustainable in terms of winning,’’ said Mills.
Feel free to tell me I’m wrong. I’ve been hearing it for years. I’d much rather hear the sound of a banner being raised to the rafters at The Garden.