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Knicks say new coach will have to understand today's player

New York Knicks president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry cited issues with player accountability and on-court consistency as two reasons why they fired coach Jeff Hornacek.

"Jeff did a good job in some areas and in some areas he could have done a little bit better job," Mills said on Thursday. "[We] just thought that there was an opportunity to get someone who really fit where we wanted to be three to five years from now."

Mills and Perry fired Hornacek early Thursday morning after the team landed at a New York airport following Wednesday's season-ending win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Knicks executives said on Thursday they have already been contacted by coaching candidates -- or their representatives -- about the job opening.

"I think this is a very desirable place and job, and I think a lot of candidates will see and understand the vision that we have, the type of people that we are," Perry said. "In conjunction with the city of New York and the historical significance of the New York Knicks, this will be an attractive job for a lot of coaches and [there] will be a lot of interest in this job."

Perry said that the Knicks would not limit their search in any way, suggesting that the club would be open to interviewing college coaches for the vacancy. Former Grizzlies coach David Fizdale, former Cavaliers coach David Blatt -- now coaching in Turkey -- and former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson, now an ESPN analyst, are among the candidates the Knicks are planning to contact, league sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. New York also plans to contact Jerry Stackhouse, the head coach of Toronto 905, the Toronto Raptors' G League affiliate, according to sources.

Mills said that the club's next coaching hire -- who will be the team's 11th head coach since the 2000-01 season -- will need to "understand today's player."

"Today's players are very different from yesterday's players. So you have to be a person that understands who these guys are, where they come from, what their basketball journey is," Mills said. "(You have to) understand the complexity of today's NBA game from an analytic standpoint, from a physical development standpoint, from a player development standpoint. A good coach is willing to embrace all those things."

Mills and Perry reiterated that owner James Dolan supports the patient approach they are taking with the Knicks' rebuild.

"Jim has given us the room to be patient, which is not something that's been common in this organization. Patient hasn't been one of our biggest attributes here. He's given us the room to be patient to develop players, develop a culture within the organization," Mills said. "All we can ask is for fans to look at the plan we laid out last year and we are going to be consistent with [it]. Judge us on that."

The Knicks have won just one playoff series in the past 18 seasons and have the worst winning percentage (41.4 percent) among NBA teams that have played in each season since 2000-01.

Mills and Perry hope that taking a patient approach to their rebuild will yield better results. The executives plan to build a strong young core around Kristaps Porzingis, who is rehabbing from a torn ACL. The plan involves adding young talent via the NBA draft around Porzingis, rookie guard Frank Ntilikina and shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr.

The hope is that the young core management assembles can attract big-name free agents as early as the summer of 2019, when the club projects to have significant cap space.

Mills and Perry recognize how vital their next coaching hire is in order to carry out the vision.

"We have a plan for what this team should look like over the next three years or so," Mills said. "We just thought this was an opportunity where we thought it was the right time to make a change."

Regarding potential free agents this summer, center Enes Kanter said he is leaning toward declining his $18.6 million player option for next season with the intent of securing a long-term contract. Kanter strongly stated on Thursday that his priority is to remain with the Knicks.