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 29-53 finish last season. The Knicks actually resembled somewhat of a reputable team then, before Kristaps Porzingis was lost in February due to ACL surgery. New York was 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 recently-ousted 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 Jackson, Derrick Rose going AWOL, Carmelo Anthony being salty and Porzingis skipping his exit interview.
“What Phil (Jackson) 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 was 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.
While the Knicks chase the K’s — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and maybe even Klay Thompson — Hornacek will be searching for his next landing spot.
“I absolutely want to be back coaching and getting back at it after a little break here,” Hornacek said.