Longstaff Saga a Microcosm for Knicks’ Communication Problem

Is the Knicks’ ousting of Josh Longstaff a big deal? Is it going to hinder the team’s hopes of fighting its way back into relevance?

Almost certainly not.

Because if he is that great a coach, he was going to get a better job sooner than later anyway.

In 10 years — I hope to look back and shake my head thinking about a time when I worked myself into a rage about stuff like this.

But now is not 10 years into the future and the Josh Longstaff thing is infuriating. Not the fact that he was let go — I actually wish the Knicks did a bit more to shake things up — it is the WAY he was fired and the way it is communicated (or not communicated).

Last summer, we read several pieces touting the budding relationship between the Future of the Franchise — Kristaps Porzingis — and Longstaff. Fast-forward one year, amid a time of dissention, unhappiness, and an all-in-all dumpster fire as described by the great Tony Kornheiser, and Longstaff is shown the door. Not only is he shown the door, but news comes out midday on a gorgeous Spring Sunday in New York City AKA a time you release information you don’t want consumed.

Ian Begley gets the scoop, announces the firing, and here we go again. In no way do I blame any of the Knicks beat for this story or the conclusions they are forced to jump to. How could you? The Knicks have yet to say a word about it anywhere and probably won’t because God forbid the team tries to get out in front of any story to help change the narrative. God forbid the Knicks just flat-out say what happened, why it happened and behave like a professional organization.

Why would they? They have been so damn successful lately why would they want to change how they do things? Forget winning basketball games, the Knicks and Phil Jackson should just focus on writing the “NBA PR 101” because they are so good at it.

I kid.

Anyway, in and of itself, Longstaff being asked to leave is fine with me. If he was a media leak or whatever, get rid of the guy. I mean, the team has been 80–166 since Phil took over, and has been atrocious since Longstaff has been on the staff. Hell, fire em all.

However, how can the Knicks be so blind when it comes to optics and perception? STILL! After shitting-the-bed with Oakley, shitting-the-bed with the Rose situation, alienating Melo multiple times and seemingly pissing off the Future of the Franchise (among other bed-shittings), how can they allow news of Longstaff being let go to come out the way it does. How can they be so consistently dumb?!?

How about they issue a basic statement to the team’s fans that already cannot believe what they have been forced to deal with over the last three-plus years of Phil’s reign? Something like…

“The New York Knicks and Development Coach Josh Longstaff have agreed to part ways. Josh has a bright future in this league and would like to pursue other opportunities in coaching.”

Or…

“The New York Knicks will not be renewing the contract of Josh Longstaff. Though we appreciate his hard work, there was a direct violation of the team’s media policies and we feel it is in the best interest of both parties to move on. The Knicks thank Josh for everything he has done for the organization over the last few years and wish him nothing but the best.”

Or whatever really. A statement of fact. Something that drives the story, that the reporters need to quote.

By saying nothing, fans and media alike are immediately going to think this is a move Phil made to stick it to KP because of his past behavior. People are going to assume (right or wrong) that Phil is acting out at Porzingis in the same manner he acted out when he thought it would be best to remove any and all trade value Melo had by publically saying they needed to move on.

I am not stating one side is right or wrong, I am saying that any human would jump to that conclusion, and the fact that Phil’s regime allows it is disgusting. It’s disrespectful to the fans and it is disrespectful to the players and it puts the media — who is always out for blood across the city of New York — in a tough spot too.

It goes to the issue of controlling the narrative. And it also speaks to transparency — something Phil promised on his own when he got here.

I work in communications, if you know there is a story that can/will be perceived one way, you make a plan to control said story so you can at least put a spin on it. Again, this is ‘PR 101’ that the Knicks consistently seem to botch.

The beat has a job to do and when you give the beat nothing, it is forced to run wild with stuff. Sure, the New York City beat takes it too far sometimes, but so do a lot of beats — many who have a much better relationship with the team they are covering. Many that have teams that actually win now and then.

Phil Jackson is the President of the New York Knicks — he is in charge. It is on him to build a culture from top-to-bottom that will help the Knicks win. And within that culture, communication is a major major thing.

I mean shit, in life, being able to communicate effectively is one thee single most important things to do well. It is one of the things that the Knicks — especially under Jackson — have been downright atrocious at.

To put it bluntly, Phil Jackson has sucked a huge dick — multiple dicks even — multiple dicks a la a kinky porn scene when it comes to communication over the last few years. And it is getting worse.

From sub-tweets, to Rose, to Hornacek, to triangle or not, to not a single word before or after the trade deadline. From zero press conferences for an entire season, to zero appearances with any national media, to never ever publically supporting anything. To taking shots at LeBron James, three-pointers, the Miami Heat and oh so so so so so so much more, it’s been awful.

The failure to treat others professionally. Kurt Rambis. The audacity to think it would work signing Derek Fisher off the court to coach. Giving a running diary on players’ strengths and weaknesses. Publically shaming players. Forcing systems. You get the idea.

See, the bad basketball moves are one thing. Because despite being beaten in most trades and not doing well with FA signings, the Knicks are in a spot to get better, build and make some moves.

Winning takes place on the court, but it starts somewhere much earlier. Weight room, sure. Practice, def. The draft, of course. Locker room, absolutely. It also starts with communication. On the court the team needs to communicate at a high-level and across all aspects of the organization communication must take place at thee highest level.

Be it a hiring or a firing, a system or a signing, the Knicks have an obvious communication problem. One that needs fixing. I’m just not sure Phil Jackson cares to even try to.