By Frank McLean
In the NFL they call it Black Monday. The day after the regular season ends and head coaches who have had a bad year don’t want to answer their cell phones, check their texts or emails because they are going to get fired. The NBA coach firing season starts on Black Thursday and this year it got underway before the sun even had a chance to rise in the eastern time zone.
In what was one of the worst kept secrets in the league the New York Knicks fired Jeff Hornacek early Thursday as their plane landed in New York City after they finished the season knocking off the Cavaliers in Cleveland.
Hornacek probably knew the noose was coming when all three of his bosses, president Steve Mills, general manager Scott Perry and player development director Craig Robinson, came along for the trip. They weren’t there to do a team evaluation, they know the Knicks stink and the job was to hand out a pink slip.
So since 2001 the Knicks will now be hiring their 11th coach since Jeff Van Gundy resigned in 2001.
11 coaches in 17 years, now if that is not the definition of a poorly run franchise, what is?
Also fired was assistant coach Kurt Rambis. Hornacek and Rambis are the last remaining pieces of the Phil Jackson era, so now, finally, the new management team can hire their own people.
Meanwhile in Orlando president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond fired head coach Frank Vogel after two years on the job.
Vogel was a hire of previous management and it’s not because he had a 54-110 record with the Magic. They know he is a good coach and he had 250-184 record with the Indiana Pacers before Larry Bird fired him for reasons no could figure out after the Raptors eliminated them in a tough seven game first round playoff series.
It’s a case of Weltman and Hammond wanting to bring in their own coach.
In an article in Thursday mornings New York Post, Knicks beat writer Marc Berman listed names of possible candidates like ESPN commentator Mark Jackson, former and current head coaches David Fizdale, Jason Kidd, David Blatt, Doc Rivers if the Clippers release him and Raptors 905 G League head coach Jerry Stackhouse.
ESPN is already reporting that the Knicks have heavy interest in the Raptors 905 coach, but Orlando could also be a landing place for him and Stackhouse hinted he’s just waiting for his phone to ring.
“For a (NBA) team that needs a coaching change and we don’t know which teams those are, hopefully I get an opportunity to interview,” Stackhouse said after his loss in the G League Finals. “I hate speaking about other people’s jobs that haven’t even been taken yet. As those dominos fall, hopefully I get an opportunity to sit down and talk about what I’ve been able to witness being a part of the Raptors organization.”
Weltman is the former number two man to Raptors president Masai Ujiri and he would be crazy not to go after Stackhouse or Raptors assistant coach Nick Nurse who is another hot candidate likely to get a shot at coaching an NBA team.
Probably, by the time this day is through, it shouldn’t be a surprise if more coaches are fired. It is Black Thursday.
Here’s a hint. If you are an NBA coach and you finished with a record below .500, don’t answer the phone. You may be unemployed before it’s time for dinner.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.