New York Knicks: Ranking Every Head Coach of the Past 25 Years

The average lifespan of Knicks coaches over the last quarter-century has been less than two seasons

With David Fizdale's firing and replacement by Mike Miller in December, the New York Knicks are on their 14th head coach in 25 years. While NBA franchises do burn through coaches on a frequent basis, the Knicks' head coaching woes seem to mirror those of the Washington Redskins.

 

Since Pat Riley's departure in 1995, the Knicks have struggled to regain relevance. They made six straight playoff appearances in the immediate aftermath but only have three winning seasons since then. And in those seasons, they only won seven playoff total games.

 

They may not have a great track record, but here is a ranking of the 13 head coaches the Knicks have employed over the last quarter-century. (Note: Mike Miller is not included in here, but his 13-20 record entering the All-Star break since taking over for David Fizdale is somewhat impressive, all things considered.)

 

13. David Fizdale

Tenure: 2018-20

Record: 21-83

Fizdale started his career as the head coach of the Grizzlies and went 43-39 during the 2016-17 season and made the playoffs. That’s 22 more wins than he had during his time in New York, which came to an end after stumbling to a 4-18 start this season.

 

12. Derek Fisher

Tenure: 2014-16

Record: 40-96

A guard with the Lakers under Phil Jackson, Fisher went to New York to be the head coach when Jackson was the team’s president after Steve Kerr smartly spurned them for the Warriors. Like Jackson, he planned to run the Triangle Offense and convinced Carmelo Anthony to re-sign in free agency. The move did not work, as the Knicks recorded a franchise-worst 17-65 record. When New York started 23-31, Fisher was fired in February 2016.

 

11. Kurt Rambis

Tenure: 2016

Record: 9-19

Rambis was an assistant coach with the Knicks after they fired Derek Fisher in February 2016. New York named him interim head coach, and he finished out a 32-50 season. Rambis stayed on as an assistant after the Knicks hired Jeff Hornacek as head coach the following season.

 

10. Larry Brown

Tenure: 2005-06

Record: 23-59

Brown signed with the Knicks shortly after back-to-back NBA Finals appearances with the Pistons. During the season, he recorded his 1,000th win, but that was one of the few bright spots in a season marred by dysfunction, and Brown was fired shortly after it ended.

 

9. Isiah Thomas

Tenure: 2006-08

Record: 56-108

After a lousy stint as the team’s head of basketball operations, Thomas moved to head coach to replace Larry Brown. He proved to be unsuccessful there too and was fired at the end of the 2007-08 season.

 

8. Jeff Hornacek

Tenure: 2016-18

Record: 60-104

The Suns fired Hornacek after failing to make the playoffs in two and a half seasons. He then missed the playoffs in his two years with New York as well and was fired at the end of the 2017-18 season.

 

7. Herb Williams

Tenure: 2004-05

Record: 17-27

A beloved Knicks player and assistant coach, Williams coached the team for one game after Don Chaney was fired in 2004 and before the Knicks replaced him with Lenny Wilkins. He was then named interim head coach in 2005 after Wilkins was fired. After a subpar finish, he was once again retained as an assistant.

 

6. Don Chaney

Tenure: 2001-04

Record: 72-112

Jeff Van Gundy shocked fans and Knicks staff when he abruptly resigned early into the 2001-02 season. New York promoted then-assistant coach Chaney, who led the team for a little over two seasons before being fired and replaced with Lenny Wilkins.

 

5. Mike D'Antoni

Tenure: 2008-12

Record: 121-167

D’Antoni signed a four-year, $24 million contract with the Knicks and led them to the playoffs in 2011, a massive get after he previously coached the run-and-gun Suns to consecutive Western Conference Finals appearances in 2005 and '06. He resigned midway through the 2011-12 season following an 18-24 start.

 

4. Lenny Wilkins

Tenure: 2003-05

Record: 40-41

At the time, Wilkins was the winningest coach in NBA history when he replaced a fired Don Chaney and led the team to a playoff appearance. But after a 17-22 start in the 2004-2005 season, he retired from coaching for good.

 

3. Don Nelson

Tenure: 1995-96

Record: 34-25

Nelson replaced Pat Riley, who resigned after the 1994-95 season after building a defense-focused team that was a force in the Eastern Conference. "Nellie" tried to run an up-tempo offense and did not mesh well with the players. He was fired after a 34-25 start and replaced by Jeff Van Gundy, a protege of Riley's. Nelson would go on to be the winningest coach in NBA history.

 

2. Mike Woodson

Tenure: 2012-14

Record: 109-79

After Mike D’Antoni resigned, Woodson was promoted to interim head coach and kept the spot with back-to-back playoff appearances. Then he was fired in 2014 after a 37-45 season.

 

1. Jeff Van Gundy

Tenure: 1996-2001

Record: 248-172

A longtime assistant with the Knicks, Van Gundy took over the head-coaching duties when Don Nelson was fired in 1996. He led New York to six straight playoff appearances and the 1999 NBA Finals before resigning in 2001. The Knicks have never been the same since.

 

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