The Knicks fired Derek Fisher on Monday after losing nine out of 10, and interim head coach Kurt Rambis has been tasked with taking the team to the playoffs.
Thanks to his longtime relationship with Phil Jackson, Rambis will have a strong chance of retaining the position on a long-term basis. But it’s worth wondering whether New York should try to make more of a splash with its next head coaching hire, in order to create a solid team culture and an appealing environment that the league’s biggest free agents would begin to consider.
Russell Westbrook is one of those names that everyone will be targeting in 2017, and (via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports) the Knicks may be in play for his services — if they can continue to trend in a positive direction.
Jackson has made solid personnel decisions in free agency, and wisely kept the No. 4 pick in the 2015 draft to select Kristaps Porzingis. Still, the coach, the system, will be important in free-agent recruiting, because most believe Jackson is a short-timer on the job.
The Knicks have a real chance to sell Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook in 2017 – New York and Porzingis have his attention, yes – and Jackson ought to start constructing an elite coaching staff to begin that process with Westbrook and with free agents beyond him.
It’s obviously a little ridiculous to start matching up free agents with new teams two summers from now. Kevin Durant will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the current campaign, and even more than halfway through the season, it’s too early to predict where he’ll end up because he probably doesn’t even know.
But there’s nothing wrong with building a team with legitimate pieces and a solid foundation that can attract guys like Westbrook in the not-so-distant future, and that should be the goal in New York as the franchise looks around for its next head coach.