Jeff Hornacek Is Surprised By Phil Jackson’s ‘Hands-Off’ Approach With The Knicks

Phil Jackson, Jeff Hornacek
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Phil Jackson remains the New York Knicks’ most senior decision-maker. In his third season as a front-office executive, though, the 71-year-old finally seems comfortable delegating.

After five months and two exhibition games with his new team, Knicks head man Jeff Hornacek suggested surprise to ESPN’s Ian Begley that the Zen Master hadn’t forced aspects of the Triangle offense on the coaching staff.

“Phil’s been great. He’s not trying to take over and make us do anything. He’s given us the leeway,” Hornacek said after practice Sunday. “There are some things that we do that aren’t the triangle stuff [such as] our early [offense]. Quite honestly, we thought he would say, ‘Let’s not do that.’ Or, ‘Let’s not do that option.’ But he hasn’t said that at all.”

Not that Jackson’s been shy to offer his two cents, of course. He’s won 11 championships as a coach, after all; anyone who’s enjoyed that much success should have their voice heard if they wish. Even so, Hornacek insists that Jackson is “hands off” during their chalk talks.

“We talk quite a bit, but he’s been hands off,” Hornacek said. “He gives some directions here and there. If he sees something or he says, ‘Hey, let’s take a look, clean this up, this particular action.’ So it’s good.

“It’s another coach out there — he’s run [the Triangle] for years and years, so when he sees something — really, he’s not coming in there saying, ‘Hey, change it to this,’ or ‘Change it to that.’ It’s good, additional information.”

One of the biggest reasons Derek Fisher’s brief tenure as coach of the Knicks ended under somewhat contentious terms was his supposed reluctance to heed Jackson’s advice. Hornacek, though, was assured a more autonomous role on the sidelines with New York upon taking the job in May, and seems to be enjoying the freedom accompanied with that promise as the 2016-17 season fast approaches.

The Knicks’ attack will indeed feature aspects of the offense that helped propel Jackson to multiple three-peats with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. But Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, and company are poised to enjoy the fruits of more modern offensive principles under Hornacek, too. New York will run far more ball-screen action this season than it did in 2015-16, for instance, and hopes to generate easy scores like this by virtue of pushing the pace at most every opportunity.

Are those strategies tenants of the Triangle? Absolutely not. But Jackson won’t care as long as they lead to victories, and Hornacek – unlike his predecessor – is apparently being afforded a real opportunity to ensure his personal offensive ethos will do just that.