Knicks’ dysfunction under Phil Jackson continues

Only in Knicks bizarro land does this make sense.

Only under a cloud of Phil Jackson’s sage incense does it seem smart to hire a coach and undermine him after six games.

Jeff Hornacek can’t feel too comfortable because the man tasked to clean up his deficiencies is none other than Jackson’s triangle-in-crime Kurt Rambis, who was appointed New York’s defensive coordinator.

So you can excuse Jeff Hornacek for the lukewarm endorsement Tuesday.

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“It could’ve been anybody,” Hornacek said. “It could’ve been Jerry (Sichting), could have been Corey (Gaines).”

For the record, Sichting and Gaines were the two assistants Hornacek took to the Knicks from his last stint in Phoenix. They’re his guys. Rambis is the last coach who was brought in through ties to Jackson, and the 58-year-old has already proven himself eager to step over a fired Knicks coach in Derek Fisher.

Now he’s directing New York’s trouble spot because, according to Hornacek, the team will benefit from a streamlined message.

“We’re probably better off with just one voice, so with Kurt, we are going to have him be the voice on the defense,” Hornacek said.

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The “one voice” is supposed to be the head coach. That’s the way it works on functioning sports teams. Except Jackson wants his voice heard when he sees fit, which typically involves – you guessed it — the triangle. ESPN reported Tuesday that Jackson is dissatisfied with the way the Knicks are running his offense, and that shouldn’t be surprising given the fact he pulled aside Courtney Lee last week to give him a triangle tutorial.

Of course, the problem with the Knicks hasn’t been the offense — it’s the Swiss cheese defense allowing 110 points per game heading into Wednesday against the Nets. But what makes Rambis the most qualified to fix that mess? Is it the 9-19 record as interim coach last season? Is it the rumblings that top players didn’t like playing under Rambis for those two-plus months? Is it the 32-132 record as head coach of the Timberwolves, which, according to a source involved with those teams, turned into a failure because Rambis spent too much time teaching the triangle, rather than defense? Or is it because Jackson feels most comfortable with Rambis?

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Phil Jackson continues to undermine Hornacek six games into the season.

Phil Jackson continues to undermine Hornacek six games into the season.

(Julie Jacobson/AP)

“Whether we’re comfortable with it or not, it is what it is,” he said. “And we got to buy into that and embrace that.”

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A shakeup six games into the season serves as a reminder that Jackson – who has an opt-out clause after this season — is done with patience and processes. For an outside perspective on the anxiety surrounding the Knicks, here’s ESPN analyst and former coach Jeff Van Gundy:

“Everybody is trying to evaluate the Knicks far too early,” he told the Daily News the night before the news of Rambis’ appointment. “What are they six games into the season? That’s ludicrous. I was taught when I got into the NBA in ’89 that you wait 20 games. And you’re coaching at that time on a day-to-day basis but you’re not going to make any major evaluations until that time. …And I think the Knicks, they still have some roster issues to work out. But this rush to judgment on style of play, who to play and how to play, I think has been rushed. It’s never good if you’re a team and you participate with fanbases and/or media in evaluating on a day-to-day basis of your team. It brings you unnecessary angst.”

It was only five years ago when the Knicks hired a defensive coach to assist Mike D’Antoni. And within a season, Mike Woodson was the head coach. It was less than a year ago when Fisher was fired and Rambis took over because he was more willing to run the triangle to Jackson’s specifications.

Then Rambis became a leading candidate to get the vacant full-time position over the summer – the one surprisingly filled by Hornacek – and after six games was put in charge of fixing the Knicks’ biggest issue. If this seems dysfunctional and counterproductive to you, don’t worry. It is.

new york knicks
phil jackson
kurt rambis
jeff van gundy

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