Nine days into his tenure as president of the Knicks, Leon Rose’s job was upended by a pandemic.
More than three months later, he still has one huge task waiting on his plate: hiring a head coach.
In his first public comments since joining the Knicks in March, Rose delivered a blueprint of what he is looking for in a head coach and said he hopes to have the process wrapped up by the end of July.
“We want to find the right leader that can develop our young players, as well as hold everyone accountable and take us from development to becoming a perennial winner,” Rose said in an interview with Mike Breen that aired Wednesday night on MSG Network. “We also want somebody that we think will be collaborative with the front office and someone that, when you’re in that huddle and you’re looking in that coach’s eyes, every player that’s looking at him knows that that person is driving the ship and going to get the job done.”
Rose did not want to get into names, but Tom Thibodeau, who is widely considered to be the front-runner for the job, would seem to fit that description. The only candidate Rose did name was Mike Miller, the “first-class” interim coach, who he said was the first person he spoke to about the full-time job.
There are currently 11 known candidates that the Knicks will interview. Rose said the process, which is “educational” for him, would be split into two phases — first, a shorter meeting to break the ice, and then full interviews.
Here are other takeaways from Rose’s first comments as president of the Knicks:
1) Beyond a head coach, there are plenty of decisions facing Rose in terms of roster building for next season. He called RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson “two young core pieces,” but also brought up three other young players who face uncertain futures with the organization.
“I look forward to working with Kevin [Knox]. I think he’s just starting to scratch the surface,” Rose said. “Frank Ntilikina, given the right circumstances, I think can really prosper. And Dennis Smith, that’s a special talent right there.”
Rose then referred to “some solid veterans and Julius [Randle] coming back.”
The Knicks played six games from the time Rose took over to when COVID-19 suspended the season. That robbed the former powerhouse agent of 16 games he had hoped to use to evaluate his roster. Instead, he said he has spent a lot of time watching film of his current players and talking to general manager Scott Perry about them. He also sounded hopeful that the eight teams not involved in the NBA’s resumption in Orlando might be able to get together “to get some work in.”
2) One of the biggest challenges for any Knicks executive in recent history has been trying to lure top talent to New York. Rose represented plenty of stars in his role as an agent, but now he is on the other side of the deal.
“What we have to create is an environment where players are going to want to come here,” Rose said. “The way to do that is on the day-to-day, with the players that we have, with the organization we have and making sure that every aspect of that is going to be player-friendly, it’s going to be first class. We’re going to work as hard as we can to show people that this is a place you want to be at.”
3) Besides the pandemic, social unrest regarding systemic racism has also overtaken the country since the Knicks last played. Rose said he and Perry have stayed in touch with players and “we support them in any platforms they want to participate in.”
“We here at the Knicks and MSG condemn racism, won’t tolerate it,” Rose said.
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