Mike Miller has been a better head coach for the New York Knicks than David Fizdale, no one could argue against that. Unfortunately for Miller, Fizdale did leave the bar pretty low.
David Fizdale was supposed to be a players coach. A coach who can really bond with his players, and a guy players would want to play for. In reality, Fizdale failed to please his top player once again. As the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies, Fizdale was tasked with keeping star Marc Gasol happy. That didn’t go to plan…
At first things were looking good. Fizdale would fly out to Spain and stay with Gasol and his family during the off-season. Once the season started and the Ls started to pile up, the relationship began to sour. Finally it reached the point of Marc Gasol telling the Grizzlies to either trade him or fire David Fizdale. The Grizzlies sided with their 31-year-old star and fired Fizdale after a 7-12 start to the 2016-2017 season.
Fast-forward to Fizdale being named the head coach of the New York Knicks. One of the biggest tasks he would have to face was taming Kristaps Porzingis, and we all know how that would end. The story played out very similarly to Gasols. Fizdale would fly out to Lithuania to spend time with Porzingis and his family. The relationship looked functional until the New York Knicks had to actually go and play games. After the Knicks started the season 10-40, the forward/center demanded to be traded.
David Fizdale managed to provide more disappointment in his second season as the head coach of the Knicks. Fizdale caused heads to scratch by starting RJ Barrett at point guard to begin the season. Mitchell Robinson hasn’t broken out in his second year like many predicted. Frank Ntilikina has only taken baby steps in his development. Kevin Knox has regressed from his rookie year, and does anyone know where Dennis Smith Jr. is?
New York could only take so much, and after a 4-18 start Fizdale was shown the door. Overall Fizdale would end with a 21-83 record in the Big Apple. Once Mike Miller got the clipboard there was nowhere to go but up.
Under Mike Miller the Knicks have played better basketball, but for the most part it’s still losing basketball. Through 36 games Miller has guided the Knicks to a 9-17 record, even having the team 6-4 in their last ten games at one point. Miller has done enough to be better than Fizdale, but has he done enough to earn the position for the long-term? The answer is probably no.
9-17 is a lot better than what New York had originally, but in the grand scheme of the NBA, it isn’t impressive. Out of Miller’s 9 wins, only one has come against a winning opponent when the Knicks defeated the Miami Heat 125-122. In 7 of those 36 games the Knicks have lost by 15 points or more, meaning teams are still blowing the Knicks out. In 7 of those games the Knicks lost by 6 points or less, having games where they can hang around but can’t close out in the fourth quarter.
Winning more games than David Fizdale is a start, but the goal should be to have a winning record, not go 9-17. Analytics aren’t on Miller’s side either.
The Knicks currently rank 28th in PTS/G, 18th for Opp PTS/G, 21st in pace, 28th for Off Rtg and 24th for defensive Rtg. Given those numbers it’s impressive the Knicks even grinded out a 13-35 record so far this season.
Miller has to deal with the fact that this is New York as well, and their executives love to hire big name coaches. Names such as Marc Jackson, Tom Thibodeau and Becky Hammon have already been thrown around as potential options for next year.
Mike Miller deserves the chance to continue leading the Knicks through this season, but once the clock hits 00:00 on the 82nd game of the season, Miller’s time as the Knicks head coach will be up.