Head Coach David Fizdale of the New York Knicks looks on against the Brooklyn Nets at Madison Square Garden on November 24, 2019 in New York City.
Mike Stobe | Getty Images
The New York Knicks have fired head coach David Fizdale after 22 games this season, the team announced on Friday evening.
The team also relieved assistant coach Keith Smart, the team said hours after ESPN first reported the news. Assistant coach Mike Miller, 55, will serve as interim coach, the Knicks said in a statement.
Fizdale’s departure comes after the Knicks fell to the Denver Nuggets 129-92 Thursday night, dropping the team to 4-18 this season, the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
CNBC’s calls to the Knicks for comment about Fizdale’s fate were not immediately returned.
Speaking to CNBC about the move, one agent who represents coaches labeled the firing “inevitable,” following Knicks President Steve Mills and General Manager Scott Perry expressing disappointment in the team and coaching staff after a Nov. 10 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In two seasons (104 games), Fizdale coached the Knicks to a 21-83 record. His overall coaching record, which includes 101 games with the Memphis Grizzlies, is 71-134. The Knicks will be on the hook for remaining years of Fizdale’s contract, valued at roughly $17 million; part of a four-year, $22 million deal he signed to coach the team in 2018.
The question now becomes: Who will be the next coach? And will Mills and Perry be around to oversee the coaching search, beyond this season? One report indicates the Knicks will eventually make a run at Masai Ujiri, the Toronto Raptors president of basketball operations who just led the team to its first NBA championship last season.
Early coaching names floating around league circles as a replacement include former Knicks guard and Brooklyn native Mark Jackson, who last coached the Golden State Warriors to a 51-31 record in the 2013-14 season.
“I think he could do well there,” one Eastern Conference scout told CNBC shortly after Fizdale’s dismissal was reported. “But would they hire Mark?”
San Antonio Spurs assistant head coach Becky Hammon is also an interesting name, and according to a league source, the former New York Liberty guard would have interest in coaching the Knicks if she could land a long-term deal, with the belief a four- or five-year deal would be sufficient.
Sam Mitchell, former NBA Coach of the Year for 2007, is also being mentioned as a good fit to coach the Knicks in the short term, as Mitchell has a reputation of getting effort from players.
The Knicks have struggled as a team in recent years, causing many around the NBA, including the scout, to label a coaching job under owner Jim Dolan “terrible.”
Dolan is frequently criticized for how the organization is run. Mills and Perry have also received negative reviews following the construction and “unrealistic expectations” of the roster after the Knicks struck out in free agency, with superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving selecting the Brooklyn Nets over the Knicks.
Asked to describe the current roster, which includes newcomers Julius Randle (signed a three-year deal, worth roughly $62 million), Bobby Portis (two-year, $31 million with a team option for the 2020-21 season), and Marcus Morris (one year, $15 million), the scout said: “No direction.”
The Knicks will host the Indiana Pacers (14-7) on Saturday.