When Phil Jackson last talked publicly about the New York Knicks' coaching search, he said he'd "probably" limit his search to candidates with whom he had a prior relationship.
At the time, most ignored the caveat. But "probably" turned out to be a key clue from the team president.
The Knicks informed others involved in their coaching search on Wednesday that they had chosen Jeff Hornacek as their next head coach, according to league sources.
No deal had been completed as of Wednesday night, but sources involved with the situation said one is expected soon.
Hornacek and Jackson have no prior relationship. Hornacek, who coached the Phoenix Suns for 2½ seasons, has no experience running Jackson's triangle offense. So the hire prompts several questions. We'll try to provide answers to some of them:
What about the triangle? ESPN analyst and ex-Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy provided some interesting insight on the subject in an interview with Sirius XM Radio on Wednesday.
"The things I've heard is that he's not going to be required to run the triangle," Van Gundy said of Hornacek. "Which is smart from the standpoint that he's never taught it before. So you don't want to come in trying [something] that you've never played in or taught. I'm interested in that. But I think it's an inspired choice."
Jackson said as recently as last month that he was committed to running the triangle, the system he used while winning 11 rings as a coach.
It would be a massive shift in philosophy if Jackson strayed from the triangle, but the theory that the offense would change under the next head coach was not dismissed Wednesday by people familiar with the inner workings of the team.
What about Rambis? Interim coach Kurt Rambis' role with the club going forward is unclear.
Jackson informed his longtime assistant and close friend of his decision to hire Hornacek on Wednesday, sources told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. The guess here is that was a difficult conversation.
Rambis was viewed as a strong candidate for the job, due in part to his ties to Jackson and his knowledge of the triangle. Jackson and Rambis have known each other for years. How Rambis will react to Jackson's decision to hire Hornacek is anyone's guess.
Sources indicated Wednesday that there is a possibility Rambis would remain on the Knicks' staff, but the decision would ultimately be up to Hornacek.
Rambis and Hornacek have a mutual respect, sources say, having been teammates for three seasons with the Suns.
If you're looking for a runner-up in the Knicks' coaching search, that would be David Blatt. Sources with knowledge of the dynamics of the Knicks' search say Blatt was being strongly considered during the process.
Something that Knicks fans might revisit if things don't go well? Jackson curiously never reached out to Tom Thibodeau, widely regarded as the top candidate on the market. The Minnesota Timberwolves hired him.
What about the offense? In Phoenix, Hornacek employed a modern offense -- one that featured a faster pace and more 3-point attempts than the Knicks' triangle offense.
Given these discrepancies, it will be interesting to see how the Knicks' offense changes under Hornacek. Of course, the roster makeup might impact the coach's choices.
With Phoenix, Hornacek had a guard-heavy roster, at one point employing point guards Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas on the court together. Hornacek will have the opposite situation in New York, which has a strong front court (Carmelo Anthony, Robin Lopez, Kristaps Porzingis) and a backcourt in flux.
One thing that might be worth tracking? Fast-break points. When the Suns were playing well under Hornacek, the offense produced plenty of them, ranking no lower than eighth in their percentage of fast-break points in the last two seasons. The Knicks ranked 30th in the category in 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Another element to consider is Porzingis' usage. Rambis asked Porzingis to operate out of the post quite frequently after taking over for Derek Fisher.
Maybe that approach changes under Hornacek, whose Phoenix teams were top 11 in the NBA in 3-point rate in each of the last two seasons. That might mean more 3-point attempts for Porzingis, which would satisfy those Knicks fans who want to see him develop into a floor-stretching five rather than a center who plants himself in the post.