By Peter Schwartz
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When Westchester Knicks general manager Allan Houston set out to find the first head coach in team history, he had the perfect guy in mind.
Last week, the former New York Knicks star named his former University of Tennessee teammate Kevin Whitted as the first coach of the brand new D-League team that opens its inaugural season on November 16 in Oklahoma City.
The eight-year coaching veteran knew this was too good of a job to pass up.
“I’m extremely excited,” Whitted said. “This is a fantastic opportunity for me and my family.”
Whitted brings an impressive resume to the Knicks’ official NBA Development League franchise. He spent three seasons as a coach in the D-League, including a stint as an assistant coach for the Springfield Armor which at that time was a Knicks affiliate. Whitted also coached in the American Basketball Association and Professional Basketball League.
Houston found exactly what he was looking for.
“Kevin has a proven track record of developing players and is committed to the processes and development of this team,” Houston said. “I’m confident in his ability to lead and provide an environment for players to grow on and off the court.”
A successful franchise, in any sport, tries to implement its system throughout its organization — and it’s no different with the Knicks in Westchester. Although he has no prior history with Knicks president Phil Jackson, Whitted will run the triangle offense.
“We’re going to play with a lot of continuity, which the triangle offense will allow you to do,” Whitted said. “It creates what I call an equal-opportunity type of play. So we’ll make sure that we get up and down but at the same time we’ll be playing together.”
Whitted was introduced to the triangle offense by Knicks assistant coach Jim Cleamons, who was on Jackson’s staff with the Bulls and Lakers. Whitted played for Cleamons with the Dallas Mavericks and it stuck with him.
He has used the triangle before. But when he was an assistant in the D-League, the head coaches that he worked for had different philosophies.
Now that he’s back in charge, he’s going back to his bread and butter.
“I think this is the best system that I’ve used as a coach, and I’m really looking forward to getting back into it again,” Whitted said. “We’re going to play hard and we’re going to get up and down. But at the same time, we want to defend. We’re going to play the game the right way which is so important to our organization.”
Whitted’s job is to win. He also needs to have his players ready if an NBA team comes calling. That call-up will come a lot of faster if a player defends well and can do the little things.
“What we do defensively is kind of universal across the league in terms of the pick-and-roll defense and man-to-man defense,” he said. “We’ll make sure that those principals are taught daily.”
Before playing with Houston at Tennessee, Whitted was a star at Laney High School in Wilmington, North Carolina, the same high school that Michael Jordan went to. In fact, Whitted became the school’s all-time leading scorer in 1990, breaking Jordan’s previous record.
After college, Whitted enjoyed a seven-year professional playing career in the United States and Europe.
Now, he’s reunited with Houston as they try to bring a winning formula to Westchester.
“It’s been great,” Whitted said. “It’s really a homecoming in terms of coming back together again. Allan is great at managing things. He has a great eye for talent. He also has a great eye for what we’re doing within the system.”
Now that Whitted is in place as head coach, the Westchester Knicks can turn their attention to putting together a roster for their inaugural 2014-15 season. Whitted and Houston worked well together at Tennessee and now they are back together with hopes of creating some special nights at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.
The home opener is November 19 against the Canton Charge.
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