The Fight that got Fiz Fired

by Jonathan Macri & Noah Baumbach

Much was made of the fact that on Friday morning, David Fizdale was allowed to conduct practice and meet with the media before unceremoniously being fired via a two sentence press release mere hours later. No cursory pleasantries. No “We thank him for his service.”

Nothing.

It was odd, even for the Knicks. Sure, video footage of Fiz dapping up the team’s brass at practice has been interpreted different ways – did he know? were they being coy? – but the lack of a press conference since the dismissal has only made the situation more confusing. What was once the happiest of marriages had seemingly dissolved into nothingness right before our very eyes.

You want answers? We’ve got them.

Thanks to some exclusive, behind the scenes audio obtained by Knicks Film School, we now know the truth behind what went down in the bowels of the Knicks practice facility during the late afternoon hours of Saturday, December 7, 2019.

(The following is presented without edit)

Steve Mills: Hey

David Fizdale: Hey…where’s Scott?

He’s with Jim, at band practice.

Want something to drink? I have unfiltered water, beer, and some juice boxes.

I’ll take a juice box. You don’t have anything on the walls?

I don’t have anything to put on them except for pictures of me and Mud from last year, which are being framed.

I can give you some stuff, until you get some things. How about that great picture from your introductory press conference?

Aren’t you in that one?

I guess…I mean, you can cut me out…

So we’re leaving for the west cost trip right after the game Saturday night, and I was wondering if me, you and Scott can have our weekly meeting tomorrow afternoon instead of Sunday?

We have plans actually, we’re scouting a Big Sky doubleheader that night.

I mean…it’s the Big Sky. Can you change it?

It’s our day, we negotiated it. (Pause) What?

No…I’m just…asking you to be flexible.

I am flexible…you practice whenever you want and we adjust based on your schedule.

Ok fine.

RJ’s parents want to meet with us. Can you answer the emails so we can set a time?

I’m sorry, I’ve been…distracted. RJ’s fine. I just think he wants it too much. He’s getting to the line at will, and the shot’s coming along.

I just know things aren’t easy for him. He’s just like us…he’s a lousy free throw shooter because he listens to Kieth…just like us.

(They laugh)

So…I thought that we should talk.

Mm-hm

I think that things have gone too far. I have to constantly report to Jim to prevent him from going off.

I thought I was the one meeting Jim?

You’re only meeting with him on weekends.

Well I’m losing my dignity too. I just agreed to start Elfrid Fucking Payton. And we can forget developing Knox any further.

It’s just that, up until now we’ve been able to keep Jim at bay and a bad trip out West will change that. We have to appease him.

I agree. 

He’s going to start coming into the locker room, talking to players, staff, opposing coaches…and he’ll observe us trying to do our jobs, how are with the roster…

Sounds awful.

I know! I feel like if anyone observed me on any given day as President of this team, I’d never work again.

(Pause)

That was a joke.

I know…I feel the same way.

Right. So…maybe we can figure something out between us. 

You remember I said this to you before the press conference?

I know, but these are different circumstances.

I was anticipating these circumstances.

Anyway…shall we try this?

Ok.

(Long Pause)

I don’t know how to start.

Do you understand why we’re not happy with your coaching?

No.

Well, that’s not… David, that’s not a useful way for us to start…

I don’t understand it.

You don’t remember promising that we would actually run an offense this year?

We discussed things. It was the summer, we were hopeful, we said things. We talked about signing superstars, about getting a…real point guard or, what do you call it…shooting, to fill that empty space behind the three point line. We never did any of it.

You told me to turn down a meeting with Rubio that would have given us a lead guard!

It wasn’t something I wanted! He’s European! We had a great point guard last year and a great system the way we were.

You call Mudiay a great point guard?

You know what I mean, I don’t mean we were a great team, I mean life without any scrutiny. Scrappy. Honestly I never really considered anything different.

Well that’s the problem, isn’t it…I’m your boss, I drafted Frank…you should have considered my happiness too.

C’mon…you were happy. You just decided you weren’t now.

Ok…let’s…I mean, the players here now are more talented than last year.

You call this talent? I agreed to coach this team knowing that star talent was on the way, I did that knowing it would only be tough for a year.

We never said that. That may have been your assumption but we never expressly said that.

We did say it!

When did we say it?

I don’t know when…when…WE SAID IT. We said that time on the radio!

Honey, let me finish– sorry, I keep saying that…(pause)…I thought that if we made a bunch of signings and Jim was appeased, we’d all coexist peacefully for a while. 

I was not privy to that thought process.

The only reason we’re underperforming is because you can’t imagine giving time to players who do something other than put their head down and barrel blindly towards the hoop. Unless they’re forced on you.

OK, you wish you hadn’t hired me, you wish you went with a different coach, fine…but this is what happened.

So what do we do?

I don’t know.

Scott says there’s no coming back from this.

Fuck Scott! Fucking Scott…telling me I always wanted to sign Randle even though I NEVER wanted to sign Randle. How could you go to Berman and say those things about me?

You leaked stuff too! You shouldn’t have gone to Woj!

I needed my own asshole.

Let’s just both agree that both of our press leaks both said shitty stuff about us.

Yours was worse.

Woj said I was laying the groundwork.

You pulled the rug out from me and you’re putting me through hell!

You put me through hell since I hired you!

Oh, is that what it’s been, hell?

And now you’re going to put this young roster through this terrible thing so you can again get what you want.

It’s not what I want! I mean, it’s what I want but it’s what…WAS best for them.

Oh, I was wondering when you’d get around to the young players and what they actually want!

Fuck off.

No, you fuck off. If you’d stop and…and…maybe listen to your players tell you that they need time on the court to get better, maybe you’d play them more!

Stop putting your feelings about me onto them.

They tell me they like it better when they play.

They tell you that because they’re worried about their next contract.

You’re so busy diagramming new ways to wall off the paint that you don’t even hear-

Because you guys are reaming me behind the scenes and I’m trying to direct a team on the court, which sucks because you guys won’t stop meddling.

You’re fighting for something you don’t even want!

(Pause)

You’re coaching so much like Hornacek.

Do NOT compare me to Hornacek.

I didn’t compare you to him, I said you were coaching like him.

You’re being so much like Phil. Everything you complained about him, you’re doing. You’re suffocating this team.

First of all, I love Phil, he was a wonderful President-

(interrupts) I’m just repeating what you told me.

-and secondly how dare you compare my running this team to someone who fell asleep during workouts! I may be like Isiah, but I am not like Phil!

You ARE! And you’re like Layden! You’re also like Grunfeld. You’re all the bad things about ALL of these people! … but mostly Phil. Sometimes we’d be in the locker room together and I would look at you and see him and just feel gross.

I feel repulsed when I watch you coach-

(interrupts) You’re a moron, you signed four power forwards, no real point guards.

-it makes me want to peel my skin off.

You think you’ve found some better coach than me, and in a few months, you’ll fire him! You say you want to have decision-making power. But you don’t want power, you just want to fucking complain about not having power.

I think about the executive that hired you and that man is a stranger to me! I mean, we had a partnership, and a team…

You’ve regressed to being an assistant. It’s pathetic.

People used to tell me that you were too close-minded to be a great coach, and I used to defend you. They were absolutely right!

All of your best moves are behind you and you’re back to being a hack! Go sign Timmy to 71 more million dollars.

You’re tanking on purpose! You’re a fucking villain!

You want to present yourself as the victim because it’s a good PR strategy, fine…but you and I both know you picked me as your coach for a reason. You wanted me until you didn’t. You used me so you could get KD and Kyrie.

I didn’t use you…

YOU DID…and then you blamed me for it when they didn’t come! You always made me aware of what I was doing wrong and why my offense sucked ass. Life in this organization is joyless!

SO THEN YOU HAD TO GO AND MAKE RANDLE A POINT FORWARD?!?

YOU SHOULDN’T BE UPSET THAT I’M RUNNING THE OFFENSE THROUGH HIM, YOU SHOULD BE UPSET THAT I DIDN’T QUIT WHEN YOU SIGNED HIM!!!

Do you love him?

No…but he doesn’t hate me. You hated me.

You hated me. You run an offense through a ball hog.

You let Mudiay get away! The whole year…I haven’t had a point guard.

You have Frank!

But there’s so much more I could have done with Mudiay…I was the top assistant in the NBA under the age of 30! LeBron and Wade loved me. I was hot shit and I wanted to coach all the shitty point guards but I didn’t…and I loved this organization and didn’t want to leave it, but I was so respected around this league, and I didn’t want to lose that too and I kind of did! But you wanted so much, so fast…I didn’t even want to coach here…FUCK IT – there’s SO MUCH I didn’t do…

Oh thanks for that…

You’re welcome.

I can’t believe I have to know you FOREVER!

And you’re FUCKING WINNING!!!!

Are you kidding me? I wanted you as my coach. I already lost. You didn’t love me as much as I loved you…

What does that have to do with my job? (pause) What?

You’re so merged with your own selfishness you don’t even recognize it anymore! YOU’RE SUCH A DICK!

EVERY DAY I WAKE UP AND I WISH I WAS BACK COACHING IN MIAMI. OR MEMPHIS. OR WAS STILL IN THE GOD DAMN VIDEO ROOM. AS LONG AS…(the sound of what appears to be crying can be heard)…as long as Mudiay would be ok, and I knew that, I wish I was coaching a million miles away from here…

(More crying. Audio becomes muffled.)

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