Three years after Donnie Walsh decided to bypass Mark Jackson and hire Mike D’Antoni as Knicks’ head coach, some fans and media still pine for Jackson and think about what might have been.
- “Jackson would have coached defense.” They say. (Did Jackson play any defense, by the way?)
- “Jackson would have brought discipline.” They say.
- “Jackson would have done more with less.” They say.
- “Jackson was a point guard and point guards make the best coaches.” They say. (Incidentally, Mike D’Antoni was a point guard.)
But how can anyone be certain that Jackson would have been successful based on any of these assertions? Three years ago, there was no body of work on which to evaluate Jackson’s coaching acumen. Three years later, there still isn’t. Almost any coach you can think of puts in work before ascending to a position of prominence (or per Guru, “I put in work, and watch my status escalate.”) And no, that doesn’t mean watching basketball games with Jeff Van Gundy.
But let’s explore a likely potential outcome if the Knicks decided to hire Jackson:
- Mike D’Antoni leaves Phoenix and lands in Chicago, the other team that was wooing him with big money.
- Chicago wins the lottery and drafts Derrick Rose.
- D’Antoni goes from leading the Suns to an average of 58 wins per season to leading the Bulls to something close as Rose develops under the PG friendly coach.
- Meanwhile, Jackson takes over a Knicks team that won 23 games the year before.
- As the Knicks institute their plan to get under the cap for the summer of 2010, Jackson struggles dealing with difficult players like Larry Hughes, Stephon Marbury, Nate Robinson, and Darko Milicic. He tries to get them to share the ball with the likes of Al Harrington. He juggles a center platoon of David Lee, Jared Jeffries, and Chris Wilcox.
- If things work out well, maybe the Knicks chug along at the same 30.5 win clip they achieved under D’Antoni.
- All the while some fans and media lambast Knicks’ management for taking a risk on an inexperienced coaching candidate when they could have had an experienced coach with a winning pedigree but let him slip away to Chicago, which has been a playoff team each year.