On April 12, just one day after the New York Knicks “competed” for the final time this regular season, the front office announced that head coach Jeff Hornacek was relieved of his duties. The franchise has since begun its search for a new person to man the Madison Square Garden sidelines, its eleventh coaching search since Jeff Van Gundy resigned in 2002. Despite considering potential applicants such as David Blatt, Mike Woodson, David Fizdale and Frank Vogel, the two most intriguing options remaining are Jerry Stackhouse and Mark Jackson.
Prior to discussing why choosing the latter of the two is a better decision, Hornacek’s tenure at the helm is worth mentioning. Even though the former Utah Jazz swingman was an elite defender and a knock-down 3-point shooter alongside the greatest true point guard of all time, John Stockton, he was unable to translate any of his success as a player into his coaching abilities, as evidenced by stints with the Suns, and, more recently, the Knicks.
Hornacek was brought in following the dismissal of Derek Fisher back in 2016. As a part of the disastrous reign of Phil Jackson, hiring Hornacek was just another questionable decision. Throughout his two years as head coach of the Knicks, Hornacek posted a disgraceful 60-104 record, lost more than 50 games each year, failed to reach the postseason even once and allegedly engaged in a physical altercation with Knicks center Joakim Noah, a signing that marked an additional questionable decision and arguably the worst contract in the history of the NBA, completed by the so-called zen master.
Now that Phil Jackson and Hornacek and, quite thankfully, associate head coach Kurt Rambis are all gone, it is time to look to the future and hopefully land a competent head coach, as this beyond-impatient fan base continues to be frustrated because of awful decision-making and a general lack of success for decades. With an extensive pool of potential candidates, the Knicks should make it a priority to hire Mark Jackson over Stackhouse, or anyone else for that matter.
The former head coach of the Golden State Warriors played 17 years as a point guard in the NBA for teams including the Clippers, Pacers, Raptors, Jazz, Rockets, Nuggets and, most importantly, the Knicks. He was a former Rookie of the Year in 1988 and reached the playoffs 14 times as a player. Additionally, he ranks fourth on the NBA’s all-time assists list, just three spots behind the aforementioned Stockton.
With this lengthy resume of general floor experience as a player, it’s important to consider his New York background as well, since Mark Jackson starred for St. John’s from 1983-87 and was born in Brooklyn. In order to handle the immense pressure that stems from this impatient fan base, in addition to remaining composed in the basketball Mecca, the Knicks absolutely need a hometown guy.
If the New York background and playing experience are not enough to convince general manager Scott Perry and team executive president Steve Mills that Mark Jackson is the best option, they should also consider his coaching experience on the Warriors. Mark Jackson inherited an irrefutably terrible team in his first season as head coach during the 2011-12 lockout season. The Warriors finished 23-43, fourth in their division and ultimately missed the playoffs. Only one year later, however, Golden State more than doubled its win total, finished second in the Pacific and advanced to the conference semifinals principally because of his ability to emphasize defense and develop Stephen Curry.
In his third year, Mark Jackson shined in his ability to propel the Warriors to 50 games for the first time since 1993-94 and make the playoffs for a second consecutive year. Although the Warriors ultimately fell in the first round, Mark Jackson undeniably established an immediate culture change in the Bay Area. The Warriors’ fans went from booing Hall of Famer Chris Mullin during his jersey retirement ceremony to celebrating their postseason berth for just the second time in 19 years in 2013.
Although Mark Jackson is clearly the most compelling candidate, Stackhouse is worth mentioning as the second-best option. As a player, Stackhouse was a two-time NBA All-Star and a member of the NBA All-Rookie First Team while he played for various teams, including the 76ers, Pistons, Wizards, Mavericks, Bucks, Heat, Hawks and Nets.
In terms of coaching experience, Stackhouse has only been an assistant coach for the Toronto Raptors and the head coach for the Raptors 905, the organization’s NBA Development League team. He has helped lead the Raptors to finish among the top in the Eastern Conference as an assistant coach in addition to coaching the G League affiliate to a championship in 2017. His shortcomings largely reside in the fact that the development league is unequivocally different from the NBA, and that the Toronto Raptors may succeed in the regular season, but repeatedly falter in the postseason.
Even though Stackhouse may appear appealing to some considering his resume, the New York Knicks need someone better suited for all aspects of coaching in Madison Square Garden, as well as someone who has proven himself capable of laying a foundation for one of the best basketball dynasties still relevant today. That someone is Mark Jackson.