Pressure of New York Won’t Faze Fizdale

The Knicks introduced David Fizdale as their new head coach in a bright lights, big-city news conference in the World’s Most Famous Arena. He didn’t blink.

A significant portion of Fizdale’s intro focused on how he and Marc Gasol, his star player on the Memphis Grizzlies, had a falling out. Here’s where we learn a lot about why Fiz is the right choice to coach the Knicks.

“I really take ownership of that,” Fizdale said. “We didn’t necessarily click on things.

“That’s my responsibility as a coach to get players to buy in, collaborate, come together. For whatever reason, we bumped heads. But I took that to heart.

“My wife can tell you better than anyone, I’ve been meeting with some super leaders from all industries and all walks of life, and getting their feedback on how to manage and deal with different situations … and really try to dive into being better and growing from the situation.

“I’m really tough on myself. I self-reflect — which is not always easy to look at the mirror and say you were part of the problem. I hopefully can improve on it and apply it to this situation.”

Translation: Fiz is accountable.

He’s accountable to his bosses, his team – it certainly sounds like he’s accountable to his wife, which any sane married man will tell you is a brilliant tact to take – and most of all, he’s accountable to himself.

Since the day Knicks President Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry took the reigns, their mantra has been, ‘Accountability.’ Fizdale showed them that quality.

“That was an important part of our discussion,” Mills said. “When you’re sitting in front of someone and you talk about something that was a big problem for you, he owned that. And he walked us through what he did as a person and leader to try to rectify and make sure it doesn’t happen again. When someone owns up to an issue like that — we all hit adversity — it’s how you deal with it. That’s what really impressed us about David.”

Just as was the case when Perry was named the GM last summer and had his family in attendance, Fizdale had his mother, wife and family members in attendance. It may not seem like an important detail, but successful franchises are those in which everyone is all in.

“I used to tell my mom I was going to play in the Mecca; I said I was going to play in The Garden when I was a little kid,’’ Fizdale said. “I didn’t get to do that. But I’m going to coach here.

“The history of the Knicks, I don’t take that lightly. I really take a lot of pride in that. I will carry that. I will roll up my sleeves and work really hard to rebuild this culture. It’s a great opportunity to build basketball success that will eventually pay off when we hold that [championship] trophy.”

The Knicks haven’t won an NBA title since 1973. Fiz is the 11th coach in the last 17 years. So why him? Why should Knicks fans believe this is the dawning of a new era?

First thought: The president, GM, coach and owner, James Dolan, all have agreed that a patient, disciplined approach is the only way to build sustained success. This is not a one-man hire. It’s a franchise hire.

“We have a commitment from Jim Dolan to not skip steps,” Mills said.

Which is something Fizdale never did.

He was born with no silver spoon, making his way out of South Central, LA. He played at San Diego, not UCLA. He was an assistant at San Diego and Fresno State; an assistant with the Golden State Warriors, Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat.

He was hired and fired as the head coach in Memphis. He had the battle of wills with Gasol, which almost always ends in the player’s favor.

Fizdale didn’t blink. He looked into the mirror of accountability.

Second thought: He’s embracing this overly-heated hot tub known as the New York sports scene.

There are more media outlets here than any other NBA city. There are over 2 million that follow the Knicks on Twitter, and they are not shy. There are endless radio talk shows and podcasts and websites.

You want an opinion, Fiz, just open the window, walk out the door, hop in a cab, grab a sandwich at the local deli. Welcome to New York, the City That Never Lets Up.

“The biggest challenge is the expectation from fans and media,” Fizdale said. “That’s part of the fun. I love that. I’ve never been afraid. I’m really looking forward to this challenge.”

The challenge and the opportunity are here. It doesn’t seem like Fiz is the kind of coach and man to fizz out.