The Knicks’ coaching search could be nearing an end.
A league source said that team president Phil Jackson is close to hiring former Suns coach Jeff Hornacek. The source said there have been no contract negotiations yet, but there is “mutual interest” and things are “going in that direction.”
“Phil wants to be the coach,” the source said.
ESPN.com has reported that the Knicks informed those involved in their coaching search that the team has decided to hire Hornacek.
Hornacek, 53, coached the Suns to a 101-112 record over 2 1⁄2 seasons. He was fired on February 1.
Hornacek was runner-up to the Spurs’ Gregg Popovich in the 2013-14 Coach of the Year voting after leading Phoenix to a 48-34 record.
Before coaching the Suns, he spent three years as an assistant with the Jazz, including a half season under Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan.
Knicks star Carmelo Anthony went on record saying he wanted Jackson to have an open coaching search.
Though interim coach Kurt Rambis had been considered the favorite for the job, it wasn’t until recently that the Knicks’ five-week coaching search gained some momentum. Two of the top coaches were taken during that time as the Minnesota Timberwolves hired Tom Thibodeau and the Wizards hired Scott Brooks.
Jackson interviewed ex-Pacers coach Frank Vogel last week and Hornacek on Monday. He interviewed former Cavaliers coach David Blatt a few weeks ago, and had a phone conversation with Warriors assistant Luke Walton, who ended up taking the Lakers’ job.
Last month, Jackson said he wanted someone he was “simpatico” with as his head coach. That’s one of the reasons Rambis, who took over after Jackson fired Derek Fisher in February, was believed to be the front-runner.
Rambis has a close relationship with Jackson as well as a thorough knowledge of and allegiance to his triangle offense. Hornacek has not run the triangle offense in the past.
Jackson originally hired Rambis to be the associate head coach under Fisher. Rambis went 9-19 after replacing Fisher.
It’s unclear what Rambis’ role will be going forward.
There has been some speculation that he could return to his role as associate head coach and help Hornacek with the triangle offense if Jackson pushes the new coach to run it. Jackson held a two-day triangle camp/seminar one week after the season for Knicks’ players and Rambis was a part of it.
Rambis and Hornacek were teammates for parts of three seasons with the Suns.
Rambis could get a front-office position and help Jackson on the personnel side since they share common views of players.
As player, Hornacek had a distinguished career. Often among the leaders in three-point shooting, Hornacek averaged 14.5 points in 14 seasons. A one-time All-Star, Hornacek helped the Jazz reach back-to-back NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998. Utah lost both times to Jackson’s Chicago Bulls.
Hornacek interviewed with the Wizards and Kings for their head coaching jobs and reportedly was a leading candidate to replace Walton as an assistant on Kerr’s staff.