In his next bold move to rebuild the Knicks, Isiah Thomas has decided to make a coaching change. He will name Mike Fratello head coach, perhaps as soon as after tonight's game against Orlando, sources close to Thomas told the Daily News last night. Fratello was working in Sacramento last night for the Sunshine Network, which broadcasts Miami Heat games. Reached at his hotel room in Sacramento, he declined comment. The Knicks last night denied that an announcement is forthcoming and Thomas, the team's president, was unavailable for comment. However, sources say Thomas plans on making the announcement after the game tonight.
Fratello, who turns 57 next month and has been a candidate for several jobs in recent years, including the Clippers, will succeed Don Chaney. Under Chaney, the Knicks are 14-23 this season and 72-112 overall since he replaced Jeff Van Gundy 25 months ago. Chaney has this season and next year remaining on his contract. Details of Fratello's contract are unknown.
It's an awkward time for a coaching change because the Knicks are playing three games in four nights. But Thomas feels he needs to get things turned around so the Knicks have a chance to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. Also, in two of the last three games at the Garden, fans have chanted for Chaney's firing.
If Thomas follows through and fires Chaney today, as sources say he has planned, Fratello's first game will be Friday against Seattle at the Garden. The plan to install Fratello also includes moving special assistant Mark Aguirre to the bench. Aguirre has been with the team since Dec. 29, evaluating players and helping with coaching after practices. The status of Chaney's assistant coaches, Brendan Malone, Lon Kruger, Michael Malone and Herb Williams, is unclear.
Fratello, a former Knicks assistant under Hubie Brown 20 years ago and a Hackensack product, last coached in 1998-99, with the Cleveland Cavaliers. A 14-year head coach with a 572-465 record, in Atlanta and with the Cavaliers, he is considered a top defensive coach. One of the Knicks' downfalls under Chaney has been their lax play on defense. Fratello's teams went to the playoffs nine times, never advancing out of the second round.
Thomas' hiring of Fratello would be the third major move by the Knicks in the past three weeks. On Dec. 22, Garden CEO James Dolan fired Scott Layden and replaced him with Thomas. Two weeks later, Thomas engineered one of the biggest trades in franchise history, acquiring Stephon Marbury in a seven-player deal with Phoenix.
In the past few days, Thomas has refused to say that Chaney would survive the season. All Thomas has done is to rule himself out of a return to coaching this season. Fratello has been linked to the Knicks job for the past 10 days, along with Doc Rivers and Chuck Daly.
YOUR Out-Of-Context Quote of Whenever (thanks, MoeGates!): "I wish MY countrymen weren't so uptight about stuff like outdoor marajuana use and casual man-on-man anal love."Aww, NOW who are they going to demand the Knicks fire now? Van Horn?
Although they seem to be making this work... kind of... that team needed to be blown up.
DEAN's Nuggets of Wisdom:
"A-Train could wear a Vampirella outfit and I would toast a load to it."
Nah, the Pacers would have beaten the Bulls had they met in the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, and gone on to defeat an extremely underrated Houston Rockets team in the NBA Finals. But you knew I was gonna say that. Anyhoo...