Isiah Dropped The Ball On Head Coaching Job

By Jerald LeVon Hoover
Updated: February 18, 2005

Isiah ThomasNEW YORK,NY– It appears now that the Knicks are heading in the very same direction they were in during before the pre Pat Riley, Dave Checkettes and Ernie Grunfeld days when it seemed as though the Knicks were heading in the wrong direction.

It’s been said that championships are won in the front office as well as on the playing field. Sure, one can argue that it’s not the general manager that’s taking an important free throw in the closing seconds of a game. It’s not the president of a team that has to defend his man, making sure he doesn’t score while his team is up one point with less than 10 seconds left and playing on the road and sure it’s not the owner himself that is being asked to gut out a win or break a team losing streak.

That being said, it is all of the aforementioned that is responsible from bringing in the proper players and securing his team in such a way that they know how to perform in crucial situations. Goodness knows they (the players) sure make enough money to be able to do such a terrible (pun intended) thing.

Teams need a philosophy in any sport. But, especially in basketball where the players inexplicably play both defense and offense within the bat of the nature eye to make the game flow smoothly. So you would need to have a structure in place and the players to buy into that type of structure; anything else would be a failure.

Alas, the New York Knicks. What was the philosophy of former head coach, Lenny Wilkens? Not to dump on a man (albeit a very good man) while he’s gone but, it seemed as though the Knicks were trying to outscore their opponents with faulty equipment. And in the closing of games it seemed as though as a team they had absolutely no clue as to what to do. There were games whereas an opponent should have been fouled or a critical ‘time out’ should have been called. Neither thing happened and thus the Knicks either squeaked out what should have been a relatively ‘easy’ win or they lost the game outright. Judging by the teams’ record this season, the latter happened more frequently than the former.

Did Isiah’s ego get in the way of his hiring of Mike Fratello (coaching the Memphis Grizzles) or former Knicks and current Boston Celtics coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers? Some believe that is the case. It seems as though Isiah likes to go into the player’s locker room to “tell the team how he feels about things” to which not all head coaches go for. For one, it can be taken as a slap in the face of authority to have the president and general manager reaming out players whereas the head coach should be doing that. That in retrospect confuses the players and thus makes the coach a lame duck.

Doc Rivers brings intensity. He brings fire. He brings pride in how to go about challenging opponents on the floor. The Knicks could have used his gifts on the sidelines, especially while in the midst of giving up 30 plus quarters. There were times (even at home in Madison Square Garden) where the Knicks lost the game in the first quarter.

Fratello who is 25-11 since he took over for the Grizzles at the unexpected retirement of former coach Hubie Brown is doing his dirty deed without the luxury of a bonafide super star. Come to think of it, Fratello, who is a defensive genius, is doing his damage without even an “all-star”. Pau Gasol is an outstanding player but as long as the Grizzles stay in the Western Conference, and all of the Duncan’s, McGrady’s and Garnett’s just to name a few stay healthy, he will NOT see an All-star Game from the court.

One could only imagine what he would have done with these Knicks. Isiah, you may have dropped the ball on this one.