Jeff Hornacek could ditch triangle and have Knicks run more

Jeff Hornacek is not a triangle-offense coach, which would represent a significant shift for the Knicks. Michael Conroy/AP Photo

NEW YORK -- Jeff Hornacek spent Thursday afternoon at the New York Knicks' facility in Westchester with team president Phil Jackson, meeting with staffers and players, according to sources. At some point on Thursday, Jackson and general manager Steve Mills offered Hornacek the head coaching job and the two sides began negotiations.

It was the culmination of a weeklong process. Hornacek spent six hours interviewing with Jackson on Monday in Los Angeles and had dinner with Jackson and Mills in Manhattan on Wednesday, when reports first surfaced that the Knicks were ready to choose Hornacek. Both sides have spent plenty of time getting to know one another.

Barring something unforeseen, the Knicks will make it official and introduce Hornacek as their coach early next week in New York.

And then, the real work begins.

Let's take a look at a few of the initial issues Hornacek will need to address:

What happens to the triangle offense? Several media outlets have reported that Hornacek will have the freedom to install his own offense rather than run Jackson's preferred triangle. If this is accurate -- and several people familiar with the inner workings of the team believe it to be true -- it would be a shift in philosophy for Jackson.

The interesting wrinkle here: Derek Fisher attempted to tweak the triangle offense by increasing the pace, running more high ball screens and drag screens. Jackson opposed that change and it was ultimately cited as one of the primary reasons he fired Fisher in early February, when the Knicks were 23-31.

So it's a bit surprising that Hornacek would get leeway that Fisher, who won five titles playing for Jackson's Los Angeles Lakers teams, was not afforded.

Nonetheless, with Hornacek at the helm it's fair to expect the Knicks to play at a faster pace, spread the floor, shoot more 3-pointers and pursue more opportunities in transition -- all traits of Hornacek's Phoenix Suns teams. The guess here is that many Knicks players will welcome these changes. Many had grown weary of the triangle and the negative perception of the offense around the NBA, per league sources.

What happens to Kurt Rambis and the rest of the staff? Some reports have suggested that Hornacek was Jackson's preferred target throughout his coaching search.

If that was the case, Jackson didn't inform his good friend Rambis, who became the Knicks' interim coach after Fisher's dismissal.

Jackson's decision to hire Hornacek caught Rambis off guard, sources say. That Rambis would have a role with the organization was seen as a foregone conclusion earlier this month, but his future with the club is less clear now.

Hornacek also has to decide whether to retain assistants Jim Cleamons, Rasheed Hazzard, Josh Longstaff and Brian Keefe.

His plans for the assistants are unclear, but it's worth noting that Keefe and Longstaff are respected by many players for their hard work and selfless approach, according to sources familiar with the locker-room dynamic.

Another factor worth considering: Keefe and Longstaff are held in high regard by Oklahoma City stars -- and soon-to-be free agents -- Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

What about the defense? We discussed how Hornacek's offensive philosophy could have an impact on the Knicks in the final item of this post.

The other end of the floor will be equally important for the Knicks.

Hornacek's Suns teams regressed on defense in the past two seasons after ranking 13th in defensive efficiency in his first season on the sideline.

Was that due to a change in personnel or something Hornacek and his staff wasn't getting across to the players?

One factor at play here: Hornacek's top defensive assistant –- Mike Longabardi -– was fired in the middle of the season and landed with Cleveland, where he has helped the Cavs defend at a high level.

Longabardi is a Tom Thibodeau disciple and respected around the league, so it stands to reason that the Suns' defensive principles were sound and modern. It's unclear if Longabardi will be an option for Hornacek and the Knicks, but Hornacek figures to have a stronger interior defense in New York (thanks to Robin Lopez and Kristaps Porzingis) than he had in Phoenix.