So far, three names have dominated the New York Knicks‘ coaching search. Tom Thibodeau has emerged as the early favorite to replace David Fizdale as New York’s permanent coach. Former Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson has support within the organization as well, and interim coach Mike Miller did an admirable job in filling in after Fizdale was fired.
But new president of basketball operations Leon Rose has cast a wide net in the search for his first coaching hire. As of Wednesday, a number of new names have entered the fray. Philadelphia 76ers assistant Ime Udoka, who previously worked under Gregg Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs, will interview for the Knicks job, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. So will Orlando Magic assistant Pat Delany, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, and Chicago Bulls assistant Chris Fleming, according to The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov. Another name to watch for a potential interview, according to Newsday’s Steve Popper, is Spurs assistant Becky Hammon. Former Knicks coach Mike Woodson is the only other candidate known to be interviewing.
If those are indeed the serious candidates for the jobs, a few trends have emerged. The potential first-time coaches listed are all on the younger end, with Fleming the oldest at 50, and they all have experience with winning organizations. Udoka and Hammon both came up under Popovich in San Antonio. Delany began his career under Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra with the Miami Heat. Fleming worked under Atkinson in Brooklyn as well as spending time with the Denver Nuggets.
Player development also appears to be a priority. Young players like Frank Ntilikina and Mitchell Robinson displayed meaningful improvement under Miller’s watch, and Atkinson’s work with Brooklyn’s unheralded young players is well known. Udoka has a strong reputation for player development as well. As badly as the Knicks want to pursue star free agents, growing the core of young talent in place appears to be the team’s focus for the time being.
There is no timetable in place, though candidates are expected to interview by Zoom before entering the Disney bubble with their teams, according to Popper. As the Knicks are not one of the teams playing at Disney, they can afford to be patient in selecting their next coach.