When the NBA eventually returns from its indefinite suspension, the New York Knicks will have plenty of work to do. Earlier this season, the club handed the reins to Leon Rose; one of his first orders of business will be finding a long-term head coach. While it’s unclear who will take the job, we can be sure it won’t be Stan Van Gundy.
Despite his availability, Van Gundy isn’t interested in joining the New York Knicks. In his eyes, the organization is too dysfunctional to be with the trouble.
The New York Knicks are in dire straits
In the world of sports, no dynasty can last forever. While everyone will eventually go through lean times, the New York Knicks have been stuck in a downwards spiral for what feels like an eternity.
During the 1970s, however, the Knicks were one of the NBA’s best clubs. They won two championships with the likes of Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, and Dave DeBusschere starring on the court; the franchise returned to prominence in the 1990s with Patrick Ewing, but couldn’t make it to the promised land.
Since then, though, the franchise has fallen off a cliff. In the new millennium, the Knicks have only made the playoffs five times; four of those trips ended in the first round. Between consistently failing to sign a meaningful free agent, a general inability to get out of their own way, and arguably the worst owner in professional sports, New York basketball fans haven’t had much to cheer about.
The Knicks need a new coach, but it won’t be Stan Van Gundy
In early December, the New York Knicks fired head coach David Fizdale. Mike Miller has done a solid job as the interim head coach, but Leon Rose will presumably want to find his own man to lead the bench. That man, however, won’t be Stan Van Gundy.
When asked about the possibility of heading to Madison Square Garden, the veteran coach wasn’t jumping at the opportunity. “I’m not really interested in the New York Knicks, no,” he explained on ESPN Radio. “First of all, there’s a family history there. It anyone would be interested in that—and I’m not sure he is either—it would be my brother [Jeff, who previously coached the Knicks]. And number two, I just — I’ve said this, I’m different than a lot of coaches in looking at jobs.”
That difference, however, hit New York Knicks fans right where it hurts.
“To me, it’s all about who you work for and who you work with,” Van Gundy continued. “Everything I’ve seen over the last few years with that organization says that it’s extremely dysfunctional.”
At this point, everything has to start with an organizational culture change
While Stan Van Gundy’s assessment of the Knicks had to sting, he’s not the first person to voice that sort of opinion. In NBA circles, no one sees the organization as a desirable place to work.
After signing with the cross-town Nets, Kevin Durant explained that the New York Knicks have an image problem; since most players can’t remember the club being anything but awful, they have no desire to join the team. Jared Dudley touched on similar points, using the Knicks’ Westchester practice facility to suggest that the club doesn’t create an environment that players want to be a part of.
Addressing that reality has to be at the top of Leon Rose’s to-do list. While an organizational culture may not be an exciting thing to most fans, it lays the bedrock for a team’s success. If the Knicks are less of a mess off the court, they can start attracting slightly better players and coaches; they won’t go from a dumpster fire to signing marquee free agents overnight, but a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
“To be successful in the NBA, you need the best talent, a tireless work ethic, a winning culture, and a total commitment to the development of both the individual and the team,” Rose wrote in his open letter to Knicks fans. “I know that the ability to forge solid, productive relationships is what binds that all together.” Now it’s time for him to walk the walk and make it happen.