Fizdale Can Win Over Fans With Results, Not Words

When David Fizdale makes his first comments as the new head coach of the Knicks, he needs to fully understand not just who he’s talking to, but what they’ve been through.

And I’m not only talking about the players and, most importantly, the star player in Kristaps Porzingis.

[WATCH THE DAVID FIZDALE PRESS CONFERENCE LIVE TUESDAY AT 11 AM ON MSG & MSG GO]

There may be no better example for Fizdale to see than a reply I received on Twitter from a fan, Steve Ortiz, who wasn’t interested in reading another feature about the background of the reported Knicks coach.

“I don’t want to like him,” Ortiz said, “until he wins.”

Brutally honest. And, quite frankly, perfectly said.

Get to know a little about the Knicks new head coach David Fizdale.

The first thing Fizdale needs to understand is that this job isn’t just about coaching 15 players. In reality, you’re the head coach of this entire city. You have a bench of 8.5 million people who are all looking to you to make the right moves and, more importantly, explain to them so we all can buy into your vision, your plan and your decisions.

There is no city in the world that loves basketball more than this. They’ve waited decades for the game to love them back.

Fizdale needs to realize he will be talking to an audience of millions who have seen twice as many of these introductory press conferences than playoff berths since 2001.

To recap:

  • Don Chaney took over 20 games into 2001-02 and was fired 39 games into 2003-04
  • Lenny Wilkens took over 40 games into 2003-04 and was fired 39 games into 2004-05
  • Herb Williams coached 44 games somewhere in-between
  • Larry Brown coached one season, winning 23 games in 2005-06
  • Isiah Thomas was sent to the bench to coach two seasons in 2006-07 and 07-08
  • Mike D’Antoni arrived in 2008-09 and stepped down during the 2011-12 season
  • Mike Woodson took over for D’Antoni to finish the 2011-12 season, then coached the next two seasons and was not brought back when Phil Jackson arrived in 2014
  • Derek Fisher lasted a season-and-a-half
  • Jeff Hornacek had two seasons

So that’s seven coaches and two interim coaches (Herb Williams, twice, and Kurt Rambis) in 17 years. The longest stretch by any coach in that time is three seasons (D’Antoni).

So forgive the skepticism and understand the expressionless faces as you meet these people for the first time. They’ve heard all the rhetoric before. They’ve seen the smiling press conference photos.

[WATCH THE DAVID FIZDALE PRESS CONFERENCE LIVE TUESDAY AT 11 AM ON MSG & MSG GO]

What they haven’t seen are the results.

And the one concern about Fizdale is he, like the Knicks coaches of the recent past, had a short stint in his only experience as a head coach in the NBA. He lasted just over a season in Memphis. He was fired just 19 games into his second season. There are reports about issues he had connecting with the team’s star player, Marc Gasol.

Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks star, left town after the 2016-17 season without conducting an exit interview — a standard of operation — with either Jackson or Hornacek. After this season, KP opted to distance himself from the search for new leadership.

“Of course there are some qualities you like in one coach than you like in another,” he said. “But it’s not in my hands right now, it’s the management – whatever decision they make, we’ll see who the coach is then we’ll go from there.”

Kristaps Porzingis accentuates his desire to heal like a lizard, shares an update on his rehab, and voices his thoughts on the future of the Knicks and Jeff Hornacek.

In some ways, Porzingis is speaking with the same voice of the fan: monotone, guarded and a bit apathetic. For KP, this will be the fourth coach he will play for in four seasons — Fisher, Rambis, Hornacek and, now, Fizdale. He is, understandably, in the same mode as the fans at this point.

This is what Fizdale, fair or not, needs to understand as he is expected to step to the podium this week to greet the world as the next head coach of the Knicks. This is the reality he has inherited.

This is why with this job, more than any other in the NBA, you need to have a deep understanding of the history here. Know the history and avoid the doom of repeating it.

[WATCH THE DAVID FIZDALE PRESS CONFERENCE LIVE TUESDAY AT 11 AM ON MSG & MSG GO]

The Garden of Dreams Foundation helps kids facing obstacles in the Tri-State area, including Rangers fan Taylor Ryan who is battling a rare blood disorder called Langerhans cell histiocytosis.