May 20, 2016, 4:40 pm
According to ESPN’s Ian Begley, new Knicks’ coach Jeff Hornacek will apparently have “freedom to install his own offense rather than run [team president Phil] Jackson’s preferred triangle.” What exactly this development means is unclear at the moment, but it raised the attention of many after Jackson reportedly ousted former coach Derek Fisher in part because of the ways in which he deviated from the triangle – the offense Jackson ran for the entirety of his professional coaching career.
While it’s tough to knock Phil’s coaching credentials (count the rings!) the last two seasons have become a referendum on the triangle. Some of the criticism may be overblown, but the triangle does seem like a relic in the pace-and-space era. Yes, having big men who can operate from the elbows is still a relevant skill and isolation plays are still called during critical possessions (paging Oklahoma City), but perhaps this report indicates a willingness to adapt on the part of Jackson.
We won’t know the specifics of Hornacek’s offense until we see it in October, but this report could signal a philosophical shift for the organization. Begley notes that Hornacek was likely the primary target of Jackson’s coaching search, marking the first time in his tenure as team president that Jackson has reached outside his own coaching tree, and it’s hard to believe Phil would want to hire a coach with no experience in a given system (triangle or otherwise) and then expect him to run said system.
The mathematical argument for shooting the three-ball is unimpeachable, and being able to outpace opponents is proving almost equally effective. As a result, all signs point to Hornacek being able to craft his own offense. In Phoenix his teams were towards the top of the league in pace, and – much like the Rockets – attempted a high number of threes despite their lack of skilled shooters.
The last time the Knicks made the playoffs they bombed away from deep, using Carmelo Anthony as a small-ball power forward to ensure they could play four-out basketball. The results were impressive, and while the roster looks much different today it wouldn’t surprise us to see a similar tactic deployed by Hornacek next season.