43-Year-Old Looking Forward To Building Something In New York, Says His New Team Is Filled With Athletes

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The David Fizdale era has begun.

The Knicks introduced their new head coach on Tuesday during a packed press conference at Madison Square Garden.

New York announced the hiring on Monday, roughly three weeks after firing Jeff Hornacek, who led the Knicks to just 29 wins in 2017-18 and lasted just two seasons.

Knicks president Steve Mills said he and general manager Scott Perry interviewed 11 candidates during the search for Hornacek’s replacement. When they finally settled on Fizdale, they did so knowing he checked every box on their exhaustive list of requirements.

“We believe sincerely that David is that person and we’re happy to have him,” Mills said.

“In David, we’re getting someone of very high character, who shares in the vision that Steve and I have laid forth from the time I came here last July,” Perry added.

David Fizdale

David Fizdale was introduced as the new head coach of the Knicks on May 8, 2018. (Photo: CBS2)

Perry said his vision includes putting a team on the floor that is tough minded, defensive oriented, willing to compete every night, accepting of accountability, and ready to play unselfish basketball on the offensive end.

Both front office men said they believe they couldn’t have hired a more qualified candidate.

“This is quite humbling to be sitting here today with you guys,” Fizdale said. “I am so honored to be the head coach of the New York Knicks. I mean, you can’t dream of this stuff.

“I used to tell my mom I was going to play in the mecca, I was gonna play in the Garden one day,” he added with a smile. “Ma, I didn’t get to do that, but I’m coaching here, though.”

Fizdale, 43, led the Memphis Grizzlies to the playoffs in 2016-17 before being fired early this season following a clash with star center Marc Gasol.

That did little to diminish the respect for Fizdale, who had been an assistant to Erik Spoelstra in Miami when the Heat won two NBA championships and developed strong relationships with superstars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Prior to his eight-year run on South Beach, he was an assistant for four seasons in Atlanta and one in Golden State.

“Obviously, the history of the Knicks … I don’t take that lightly,” Fizdale said. “I’m so proud about that, to come into this city, to be integrated in this organization, I don’t take that lightly. I really take a lot of pride in that. I will carry that. I roll up my sleeves and work really hard, tirelessly to rebuild this culture back, to give these guys a great opportunity to feel basketball success and eventually we hold that trophy together.”

The Knicks have missed the playoffs the past five seasons and could struggle again in 2018-19 while All-Star Kristaps Porzingis recovers from a torn knee ligament. Fizdale raved about Porzingis, calling him “the future of the NBA,” and said he would soon make a trip to Latvia to spend some time with his franchise player. Until Porzingis returns to action, however, the new coach plans on instituting an all-hands-on-deck mentality.

“I see opportunity. Without Kristaps, some other guys are going to have to step in and really take on bigger roles,” Fizdale said, adding, “That’s a challenge I knew I was going into and I’m actually looking forward to it because I feel like we’re really going to build something.”

Fizdale went 43-39 and led the ready-made Grizzlies to the playoffs in his lone full season in Memphis. He lasted just 19 games into the following season, when Gasol publicly objected to being left on the bench in the fourth quarter of a game. Fizdale told reporters on Tuesday he took ownership of his falling out with Gasol and learned from it.

When asked if he plans to change his new team’s style of play, much like he did in Memphis, Fizdale said it won’t be necessary because the Knicks, in his estimation, are loaded with raw ability.

“Coming here, I see athletes. I see speed. I see a physical toughness to us. I want to get up and down the court. I want to share the basketball. I want to attack the paint. But none of that will start without us being a great defensive team,” Fizdale said. “We are going to be a team that really plays a pressure, physical style of basketball, get a lot of deflections, try to get a lot of steals and get into the open court and earn the right to go play a more free-flowing, attacking style of offense.”

Fizdale is expected to throw out the first pitch at Monday night’s Yankees-Red Sox game in the Bronx.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)