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One of the New York Knicks biggest questions heading into the offseason will be their future head coach.
After Derek Fisher was abruptly fired in February, assistant coach Kurt Rambis has taken the reins, going 9-18 as an interim coach.
Several reports have indicated that Knicks president Phil Jackson has interest in hiring Rambis as head coach this offseason, but a report from ESPN’s Ian Begley says Jackson will weigh other candidates as well.
Among those candidates, according to Begley, is former Cavaliers coach David Blatt. Blatt was fired from the Cavs in January.
Blatt could be a solid fit with the Knicks. As Begley notes, he played with Knicks GM Steve Mills at Princeton, he’s a highly decorated coach overseas, helped bring the Cavs to the Finals last year, and runs the Princeton offense, which has similar qualities to Jackson’s triangle offense. However, hiring Blatt could have one big roadblock for the Knicks – Carmelo Anthony.
It’s unclear how Anthony feels about Blatt, but Blatt’s relationship with Anthony’s best friend, LeBron James, could be an indication.
James and Blatt famously had an awkward, passive-aggressive relationship during Blatt’s time with the Cavaliers. Blatt was hired to coach the Cavs before James returned to Cleveland. James reportedly was pushing for other candidates, including current Cavs coach Tyronn Lue, but was unsuccessful. From there, the relationship was disharmonious, with James often ignoring Blatt’s play calls, taking over in huddles, and as ESPN’s Marc Stein described after the Finals, “emasculating” Blatt in front of the team.
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By the time Blatt was fired, it was clear that James did not like him.
Meanwhile, James and Anthony are best friends – their relationship goes well beyond basketball. Surely, in the 1.5 seasons under Blatt, James let Anthony know his feelings for the coach, which could affect how Anthony views Blatt as a personality manager or tactician, or both.
Anthony has stated that he wants the Knicks to consider coaching candidates beyond Rambis, and he’s made it clear he wants to be involved in decisions for building the team, including free agent signings. Would he be in favor of hiring a coach that James plainly didn’t jell with?
If Anthony did have an issue with it, the Knicks could ignore him and let Blatt and Anthony try to work it out down the road, but that wouldn’t be comfortable grounds on which to continue a rebuild, alienating the star of the team with a coaching hire. They could trade Anthony if they like Blatt that much, but Anthony has a no-trade clause, meaning he has to approve any trade.
Again, it’s not clear if Anthony has any objections to Blatt. But it seems safe to say that he’s aware of how one of his best friends and the league’s best player views Blatt. That could make any potential hiring more difficult.