The Lakers’ stop at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Tuesday to face the Knicks featured a return of Carmelo Anthony to a franchise and city that he had plenty of memorable moments with. But Anthony was not the only former Knick to have a homecoming on the night, as assistant coach David Fizdale also made a far less ceremonious return to the Big Apple.
Fizdale served as head coach of the Knicks for 104 games across a season-and-a-half during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. He won just 21 of those games, and was fired after a 4-18 start in his second campaign in charge.
After taking a year away from the sidelines, Fizdale returned to the NBA by joining the Lakers’ staff after the departure of Jason Kidd to Dallas. It’s the first time he’s been an assistant coach since 2015-16 in Miami, a spot he held for eight seasons, including during LeBron James’ tenure in South Beach. And prior to Tuesday’s game, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel spoke about what Fizdale has brought to the team this season in his return to an assistant coaching role.
“Just knowledge and expertise,” Vogel said. “He’s a great guy. Obviously, we competed a lot against each other when he was in Miami being the lead assistant down there during all those tough playoff battles that we had, so I have a lot of respect for his knowledge and the job he did as a head coach obviously, without much of an opportunity here (in New York), but in Memphis. He really knows his stuff and has brought all that to the table for us.”
The irony here, obviously, is that the Lakers slow start has all eyes pointed at Vogel and his job security. Wednesday’s win over the Pacers in overtime on the back of LeBron James likely bought him and the team more time to figure things out, but Fizdale’s relationship with James is strong and not just simply because he served as a coach of his in Miami. The two have a real bond that makes him widely seen as the favorite to take over as interim coach should Vogel be fired in-season. For now, Vogel said during a recent episode of Spectrum SportsNet’s “Backstage Lakers” that Fizdale is serving as the team’s offensive coordinator this season.
It should also be noted the not-so-subtle dig Vogel took at the Knicks, who passed on hiring Vogel in 2016. When Fizdale was fired, it was not done with unanimous approval, as the Knicks were mired in a string of hirings and firings of head coaches every other season, with Fizdale the fourth-straight coach to meet that fate. Each of the preceding three coaches was given more games than Fizdale’s 104 games, though each of them also had better winning percentages as well.
And now, in a bit of full-circle irony, it could be Vogel not getting a fair shake that gives Fizdale his next coaching opportunity. Good thing, then, that he has plenty of knowledge and expertise to bring to that position.