Knicks president Phil Jackson was “blown away” by Jeff Hornacek in Monday’s job interview, but only after Jackson couldn’t sell anyone on keeping interim coach Kurt Rambis, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. Berman reports Jackson made the final decision to hire Hornacek, who is still finalizing contract details with the team.
In selecting Hornacek, Jackson ignored cries from the media and fans to pick up former Indiana coach Frank Vogel, who was hired Thursday by Orlando, or ex-Cleveland coach David Blatt, who was the preferred choice of GM Steve Mills. Hornacek reportedly got a strong recommendation from Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who is close with Jackson.
Berman says Jackson was influenced by criticism of Rambis from inside and outside the organization. Mills wasn’t sold on Rambis, nor were Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis, with Anthony expressing his views through the media. Other players also voiced reservations in their exit interviews about keeping Rambis. Owner James Dolan wasn’t on board either, though he was letting Jackson make the final choice, and Jackson reportedly had his own questions about Rambis’ leadership skills.
Anthony supports the hiring of Hornacek and likes the move away from the triangle, Berman writes in a separate piece. Anthony believes Porzingis will have a larger role in the new offense and thinks that will benefit the Knicks in the long run. He would have also been happy with Blatt, according to Berman.
Berman speculates that Rambis could be retained as an assistant coach with Hornacek, who was his former teammate in Phoenix, or he could join Jackson in the front office.
Jackson has liked Hornacek since his playing days, but didn’t contact his representatives until two weeks after the search began. Jackson’s first choice, according to Berman, was new Lakers coach Luke Walton, whom he talked with two days after launching the search.
In bypassing Rambis, Berman believes Jackson may have paved the way for an easier exit from the Knicks. Jackson has an opt-out clause to leave the organization after next season, and many believe he will head back to the Lakers to reunite with fiancee Jeanie Buss. Berman writes that Jackson might have felt an obligation to stay in New York and oversee Rambis if he had been the choice, but that pressure is now gone.