If Phil Jackson was never fired: Time for a new coach
Knicks fire head coach Jeff Hornacek
It was bound to happen, and Jeff Hornacek’s leash was already thin this season for his inability to coach the triangle. After a disappointing 31-51 season, the Knicks were even more awful in Hornacek’s second season, mostly by design. In this alternate universe, Hornacek is frustrated and expresses a desire to run an up-tempo style of play, clashing with Phil’s dedication to the triangle offense. He storms into his exit meeting with Jackson, berating the triangle offense and its place in today’s NBA.
Phil is baffled and fires Jeff Hornacek on the spot: “How dare you question the triangle. There is a reason I beat you two times in the finals, Jeff. The triangle has won me eleven rings, and up-tempo has won you nothing. Get out of my office.”
This quote will also be present in Phil Jackson’s book about the Knicks.
Knicks hire Ettore Messina as head coach
Jackson is embarking on his third head coaching search in four seasons with the Knicks, and he realizes that the triangle is the foremost reason he cannot find a committed head coach. He settles on finding a coach who can most resemble the style of play he preaches: passing and spacing. He looks to Gregg Popovich’s staff for candidates, as the Spurs utilize the triangle and mirror the style of play he has won championships with.
He interviews Popovich’s lead assistant and decorated Euroleague coach, Ettore Messina, and is blown away by his knowledge of the game. Ettore’s philosophy is similar to Jackson and Popovich’s, as he preaches a half-court brand of basketball predicated on movement and shooting. Phil Jackson trusts that Messina will utilize the triangle in his gameplan, unlike Derek Fisher and Jeff Hornacek.
Knicks get the first overall pick in the 2018 draft
The Knicks finished the 2017-18 NBA season with a league-worst 19-63 record, two games worse than the Phoenix Suns at 21-61. They enter the 2018 NBA lottery with the greatest odds for the first pick in the draft at 25%. In real life, the Suns had the best odds and got the first pick in the draft. Under Phil Jackson, the Knicks win the lottery and are pegged with the great debate: Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton.