With the New York Knicks seemingly back in the mix with competitive teams following their 2020-2021 success story of a season, it’s easy to forget just how far they’ve come in such a short amount of time.
They finished with 41 wins this year, more than their last two seasons combined. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has instilled a defensive identity that was strongly lacking, and seemingly firmly out of reach for his immediate predecessors.
One stands out among the rest in David Fizdale, who lead the Knicks to a 21-83 record from 2018-2019.
The former Memphis Grizzlies head coach has yet to land a coaching position since his exodus from New York.
Now, reports are surfacing that he’s being eyed for a top assistant position alongside Chauncey Billups, should the Hall of Fame point guard land his first head coaching job with the Portland Trail Blazers.
It’s brought eyes back to David Fizdale, one of the forgotten men in the New York Knicks’ turnaround, albeit for good reason.
He’s opened up on his time with the team and disappointing tenure at Madison Square Garden in a recent interview spot with The Undefeated.
Fizdale: ‘I Was Too Nice’
In his latest piece for The Undefeated, Jesse Washington profiled David Fizdale, as he prepares for a potential return to the NBA’s sidelines.
The 47-year old admitted that his latest job with the New York Knicks, where he was fired prematurely, took a large hit on his mental health:
I really was at the lowest place I’ve ever been from a mental health standpoint. I thought the lowest point was during the losses. But it was after, when you go through the whole part of, ‘What could I have done different? Did I even deserve this job?’ You think like you were an imposter. You felt like you got over on these people. You’re a fraud.
A lot of fans would agree with the last sentence, whether maliciously or just realistically. Fizdale was supposed to help usher in the brightest moments of the Knicks’ rebuild, and instead failed to lead them through the darkest.
Coming off of his first head coaching job with a contending Memphis Grizzlies team, he was confident that he could make something of a flawed New York roster:
I always thought, ‘Whoever you give me, I can win with them. I’ll figure it out,’. That’s how arrogant I was.
Needless to say, he didn’t. And nothing highlights it more than the 4-17 start to the 2019-2020 season, his final stretch coaching the team.
Mike Miller, former head coach of the team’s G-League affiliate, proceeded to lead the team to a 17-27 record, as both a first timer and with the same roster.
Looking back, Fizdale admits that his relationship with players may have been too familiar at times:
I probably was too nice to those guys. I was too wrapped up in what would happen to them if they didn’t play. It was basically the opposite of what I did wrong in Memphis.
Fortunately, it appears he’ll have a chance to make good on his learning curve, according to Bleacher Report’s Sean Highkin:
Should Chauncey Billups land the gig, it appears an announcement of David Fizdale joining his staff is imminent.
What happens next will be entirely up to him.