Hor­nacek: We were on right track

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - BY MARK FIS­CHER

Nearly a year af­ter Jeff Hor­nacek was in­fa­mously booted off Broad­way in the Westch­ester County Air­port, the for­mer Knicks head coach is speak­ing up pub­licly for the first time.

“We felt like we were on the right path,” Hor­nacek said dur­ing a pod­cast with ESPN’s Adrian Wo­j­narowski. “It felt a lit­tle like un­fin­ished busi­ness for us. But that’s the NBA.”

Wel­comed into the MSG cir­cus by Phil Jack­son in 2016, Hor­nacek was canned by the lead­ers of the cur­rent regime fol­low­ing a 2953 fin­ish last sea­son. The Knicks ac­tu­ally re­sem­bled some­what of a rep­utable team then, be­fore Kristaps Porzingis was lost in Fe­bru­ary due to ACL surgery. The Knicks were 23-32 at the time.

“His mind­set was, ‘I want to be a win­ner, I want to be the best guy in the league,’” Hor­nacek said of the re­cent­ly­ousted Porzingis. “It’s not like in prac­tice, he took it easy. When we prac­ticed, he went at it like a game.” (Team pres­i­dent Steve Mills ob­vi­ously dis­agrees.)

Hor­nacek’s first sea­son in charge, mean­while, was ham­pered by Tri­an­gle drama brought on by Phil Jack­son, Der­rick Rose go­ing AWOL, Carmelo Anthony be­ing salty and Porzingis skip­ping his exit in­ter­view.

“What Phil wanted to do is mix his Tri­an­gle prin­ci­ples with to­day’s game,” Hor­nacek said. “We tried to mix it up and I prob­a­bly wasn’t as suc­cess­ful as I’d like to be on that. We used as­pects of it. He was never say­ing, ‘Hey, you need to go full Tri­an­gle.’ He saw that the game had changed. But he saw there were a lot of parts of the Tri­an­gle that’s still play­ing bas­ket­ball.

“It takes that time,” Hor­nacek added. “Carmelo knew how to run the Tri­an­gle. He’s a smart player. But when it gets down to it, you need five guys that are on the court to re­ally un­der­stand all the parts and lit­tle de­tails. And that’s why I say it takes years for a group to stay to­gether.”

But Hor­nacek was granted only two of the three years he signed up for, and was thrown un­der the bus by James Dolan and Co. af­ter months of talk the or­ga­ni­za­tion would ful­fill the con­tract. They re­port­edly said Hor­nacek didn’t un­der­stand how to con­nect with younger play­ers.

“You can’t ex­pect a re­build­ing sit­u­a­tion and go out there and win 50 games. That’s why they call it re­build­ing,” Hor­nacek said be­fore the end of last sea­son.

His suc­ces­sor, David Fiz­dale, al­ready knows a ton about re­build­ing, see­ing as the mis­er­able Knicks (10-45) are ce­mented in the NBA’s cel­lar.

But Fiz­dale, Dolan’s 11th head coach since 2002, seems to have a lit­tle more lee­way than his pre­de­ces­sor, as the or­ga­ni­za­tion pre­pares for per­haps the most im­por­tant off­sea­son in fran­chise his­tory.

Jeff Hor­nacek

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