The New York Knicks could be looking at an old friend during their latest head-coaching search, and here are reasons as to why they should.
In Frank Sinatra’s classic song commonly played after a Yankees win, “New York, New York,” the iconic line says, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” Well, that’s hardly the case in terms of the laughable coaching carousel that’s plagued the New York Knicks since the millennium under owner James Dolan.
With David Fizdale and inevitably interim head coach Mike Miller getting the boot, Dolan will have single-handedly presided over 14 different head coaches in his 23-year run as owner. While media outlets have quickly been able to compile a list of possible candidates to fill the vacancy, I haven’t come across one to mention a pretty notable name except one person … Dick Vitale.
While Dicky V can be labeled a loudmouth, thus all caps “BEST AVAILABLE GUY is RICK PITINO” tweet, it’s fair to point out that he used the @ (at) symbol to the Knicks social media account and there was some method to his madness. I probably wouldn’t have seen it!
After laughing about Pitino, the former Louisville head coach who was exiled after the NCAA claimed he knew about recruits were “paid” to attend the university, and what it would be like for him to coach the Knickerbockers… I thought about what he would bring to the table.
1.) He has coached in the NBA before.
Pitino joined the Knicks in 1983 as an assistant. He was there for two seasons before going back to college to coach Providence. The Friars would reach the Final Four in the 1986-87 season. Considered one of the hottest coaching prospects in the nation, he took over the Knicks with a young roster full of future NBA coaches (Rick Carlisle, Billy Donovan, Patrick Ewing, and Mark Jackson). After a two-year stint amassing a 90-74 mark with the Knicks, Pitino resigned to lead the Kentucky Wildcats to eight seasons, including an NCAA Championship in 1995-96. Pitino then served as an executive/ head coach of the Boston Celtics from 1997-2001, going 102-146 in that span.
2.) NCAA winning coach
Had Pitino not had a chunk of his wins vacated, the Long Island, NY native would rank 35th all-time with a 770-271 record. In my mind, he has two National Titles (1996, 2013) despite the latter being vacated by the NCAA. He’s coached in every possible era of modern basketball. You don’t get a record like that by not knowing how to recruit, relate to players, and execute the Xs and O’s. In recent years, he’s coached today’s NBA stars Donovan Mitchell, Terry Rozier, and Montrezl Harrell.
3.) ‘Greek Freak’ connection
The 67-year-old coach recently led Panathinaikos B.C. of the Greek Basketball League to a championship in his first season. In addition to that, he was also tabbed as the Greek National Team head coach. Come time for the Olympics in 2020, and he will be coaching Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo. If Pitino gets hired to lead the Knicks to basketball relevance again, maybe his newfound relationship will be able to lure Giannis to the bright lights of NYC when he hits free agency in the offseason of 2021.
While the odds are unlikely, Pitino has the resume for the job. The question remains. Will he be able to beat out the likes of a Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau, or Becky Hammon?