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David Fizdale rolls the dice and wins

Coach passes on Suns job before landing with Knicks

New York Knicks soon-to-be head coach David Fizdale rolled the dice and won.

Fizdale was one of the most coveted free-agent head coaches on the market. The Phoenix Suns recently offered the ex-Memphis Grizzlies head coach a four-year deal paying around $20 million, according to sources. But Fizdale down turned the Suns down, hoping for the bright lights and big city of New York. He also interviewed with the Atlanta Hawks.

So why did Fizdale pass on the Suns’ opening? The franchise has a future NBA All-Star in Devin Booker, a high draft pick and other talented young players such as Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss, Elfrid Payton and T.J. Warren.

Well, coaching Knicks All-Star forward Kristaps Porzingis is a plus. Fizdale has a big personality that could fit well on Broadway. Remember the “Take that for data” rant? Although coaching in New York always bring immense pressure, there is nowhere to go but up for this struggling franchise.

But most notably, the South Central Los Angeles native is socially conscious and could strengthen his platform in North America’s largest media market, sources said. Obviously, timing has to be right to push a social agenda, as turning around the Knicks will be Fizdale’s main focus.

Fizdale was vocal about civil rights issues while coaching the Grizzlies and pushed for the removal of Confederate statues in Memphis, Tennessee. The small market perhaps kept those views from being well-known nationally. Less than a month after the Grizzlies fired Fizdale, the Memphis City Council voted to sell two city parks with Confederate monuments, clearing the way for two statues to be removed before the city commemorated the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Suns hired Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov on Wednesday. That same day, Fizdale was reminded of the job that he lost in Memphis as his good friend and replacement, J.B. Bickerstaff, was promoted to full-time head coach. But on Thursday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Knicks agreed to a four-year contract with Fizdale.

Fizdale led the Grizzlies to a 43-39 record during the 2016-17 season and a first-round playoff appearance against the San Antonio Spurs. After a 7-12 start to the 2017-18 season, which included eight straight losses, and a fourth-quarter benching of star center Marc Gasol, Fizdale was fired on Nov. 27, 2017. Fizdale, who has served as an ESPN studio analyst, said that he has learned a lot since losing the Memphis job.

“Now that I have coached, sat in the seat and looked across the league, there are so many elements you have to bring into the job now,” Fizdale recently told The Undefeated. “Even in free agency, if your coach isn’t a great recruiter with the way these guys are changing teams now, … you have to have a guy that can go in and sell. You have to have a guy that can go in front of the group when stuff goes bad in the press. You have to be able to stand in front of the group when your star player is messing up and say no.”

When he is announced, as expected, next week, Fizdale will become the 11th head coach of the Knicks since Jeff Van Gundy resigned in 2001. The Knicks have won only 40 percent of their games since that time.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.