For a while, it looked like the vacant coaching position at the Knicks was down to 2 front-runners. Kurt Rambis, the interim head coach for New York, was widely believed (to the mouth-agape dismay of Knicks fans) to be Phil Jackson's preferred candidate. Other commentators, myself included, strongly felt that the recently-deposed ex-Cavaliers coach David Blatt would be a brilliant fit in New York. Then of course, Howard Beck of Bleacher Report announces via Twitter that Jeff Hornacek coaching the Knicks was all but set in stone.
Source: Twitter @HowardBeck
And while Hornacek may not have been at the top of every Knicks fan's wishlist, there is still a lot to be excited about in light of this hiring. Namely, it shows that Jackson is not married to the idea of his coach running the Triangle offense. Hornacek may have only spent 3 years in Phoenix, but during his tenure there he established himself as a brilliant, versatile mind on the offensive end of the floor: his players moved constantly, using a combination of a motion offense with great helpings of 'Horns' plays to get shooters open looks or the roll-man to the basket.
Hornacek's proven ability to run a motion offense, as well as his deep bag of coaching tricks, is the number one thing I like about his hiring, and also why him getting the job in the first place actually makes a lot of sense.
Derek Fisher and Kurt Rambis have ties to Phil Jackson through their tenure at the Lakers, so it fit the narrative that Phil would only be searching for a coach who would run the Triangle and only that. Basically, someone who would be a proxy for Jackson himself. But all Phil was ever looking for, per Bleacher Report, was "a structure... that involves all five players and emphasises ball and player movement, whether it's the Triangle or another system".
This kind of team basketball is Hornacek's bread and butter, and most likely what drew Jackson to him initially.
Secondly, the weakest position in the Knicks starting five is undoubtedly the point guard, and has been for some years. Well, get ready Knicks fans, because a goddamn PG whisperer is about to arrive in New York.
Goran Dragic had been a serviceable 7-year player who had shown consistent if mild improvement in his scoring output each year he was in the league. At the start of the 2013 season, Hornacek begins coaching him in Phoenix and suddenly his PPG shoots up from 14.7 to 20.3, winning him the Most Improved Player award in the process. Similar results also occured to Eric Bledsoe under Hornacek's tutelage. You could absolutely argue that, since Bledsoe was only a bench player on his previous team (LA Clippers), he would of course see statistical improvement through having an increase in playing time, but even his per 36 minutes metrics dictate a demonstrable improvement from his Clippers departure to the Suns.
I'm very interested to see what he can make out of the young Knicks guards Tony Wroten and Jerian Grant. Grant, in particular; an explosive guard with decent passing skills who just seems to have a problem with actually putting the ball through the hoop, but has absolutely shown the requisite potential to be a good player.
Finally, his track record. In his first year at Phoenix, Hornacek compiled a 48-34 record for a team many were expecting to be bottom-dwellers. And probably fair enough too, considering in the season just previous they had posted a miserable record of 25-57. Utilising Dragic to lead the group of Which-Team-Is-He-On? contenders (mind you, this was also when Markieff Morris was a Sixth-Man of the year candidate and not a team cancer), the end result was a huge 23-win improvement on the previous season.
Of course we know what happens next: the 'Let's play 3 point guards at once' experiment goes horribly wrong to the surprise of few, front office becomes a chaotic mess and alienates Dragic to the point of him demanding to be traded (this also amongst other bad trades as well, *cough* Tyson Chandler *cough*), Markieff starts swinging at people on the bench, the team is crappy again and everyone blames ol' Jeffy Hornacek.
Now, it would hardly seem fair to blame the coach on everything that went wrong in Phoenix, but that's exactly what the Phoenix front office did anyway. Rather than accept responsibility for their own ineptitude, they let a gifted basketball mind eat shit for reasons that had nothing to do with his ability to coach. But hey, it's to New York's benefit now.