New York Knicks: Mike Miller looking like the right decision

Following a historic offensive performance by the New York Knicks, it looks as if promoting former assistant coach Mike Miller to head coach was the right decision.

Beating the 2019 Atlanta Hawks at home should not be a significant accomplishment even for the lowly New York Knicks, yet the manner in which New York obliterated Trae Young and his assortment of sidekicks Tuesday night proved the impact of their new head coach. New York’s front office was clearly feeling the pressure of ownership to deliver results and attempted to sell head coach David Fizdale as the reason behind the team’s disappointing early-season record. In reality, Fizdale’s shortcomings stemmed from his decision making while losing games, rather than the fact he was losing them.

This season’s Knicks are headed to the draft lottery, the same place they have concluded their previous four campaigns. The team’s front office has claimed to be capable of acknowledging that a “lost season” doesn’t necessarily need to be devoid of progress, yet previous Knicks’ head coaches have been incapable of applying this philosophy. The path to making something of a lost season starts with prioritizing young talent. Put the players with the greatest chance of being key contributors to a future contender on the floor.

While it may seem like a straightforward approach, Fizdale remained committed to playing his veterans until the day his keycard no longer opened the practice facility. This strategy would be justifiable if the Knicks were competing for a playoff spot, but absolutely ridiculous after considering the team’s current record.

Coach Miller’s first six games as head coach should not be deemed promising simply because the team has won more basketball games, rather the new head coach has enabled the team’s young talent to thrive in extended opportunities. Miller understands that no matter how much more likely Wayne Ellington is to knock down a clutch three, providing Kevin Knox with a high-intensity experience is much more valuable in the long run.
While the development of the Knicks young talent is undoubtedly the team’s primary concern, Miller’s ability to potentially match Fizdale’s 2019 win total on Friday night against Miami is no small feat. The Knicks 3-3 record since Miller took over is a product of the coach’s willingness to not only play his young guys but also instill an offense structure outside of iso-ball. The Knicks under Miller have emphasized ball movement and playing as a cohesive unit, and in return, the wins have come.

It has become a tradition at this point among Knicks faithful to place sky-high expectations on the team’s young prospects. This generally tends to be a curse, as every highly touted prospect who makes their way into the Garden is immediately expected to produce results. This sink or swim mentality is what makes New York basketball what it is; gritty and full of passion, yet this attitude has proven detrimental to the progression of young talent. It’s difficult to blame guys like Dennis Smith Jr. and RJ Barrett for attempting to single-handedly carry the offense for stretches at a time to win over the home crowd, but to maximize the current roster’s talent, the ball must constantly be changing hands.

In providing structure and intelligent decision making to a roster in dire need, Miller has proved successful by simply doing what is logical, and yet for the Knicks even that is a pleasant surprise.