Jeff Hornacek offered a cold explanation for letting go of assistant Josh Longstaff, who served successfully in player development and also represented the favorite of Kristaps Porzingis.
According to Hornacek, Longstaff was expendable.
“We have a lot of guys. His contract is up and we felt our coaches can do that work. That was it,” Hornacek said. “When I was in Utah and Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson quit and they asked me to stay on, it was Scott Layden and I, and Tyrone Corbin — we did everything, three guys. Now we’ve got 25 guys out here so we’ve got plenty of bodies.”
While revealing that he won’t replace Longstaff, Hornacek suggested that the other coaches on the staff — including Kurt Rambis, Jerry Sichting, Howard Eisley and Corey Gaines — are better-equipped for the job as former NBA players.
Longstaff, 34, was never a pro player but quickly rose from a video coordinator with the Thunder to an assistant coach. “We talk about player development and we have coaches that have played in this league a long time, they were very successful,” Hornacek said. “We’ve already discussed about different times making player development as part of the practice so we’re going to let those guys expertise help out on that part of it.”
Still, with Longstaff gone, the Knicks have been cut off from working with Porzingis overseas. The power forward used Longstaff last year to assist in training over the summer in Latvia, and his brother, Janis Porzingis, suggested in May that they he’d like to continue that partnership.
Then Longstaff was not retained, and Porzingis has been preparing for the European championships outside of the direction of the Knicks. Hornacek was wishy-washy about sending a different coach overseas.
“You know, if some of the timing with all of this summer stuff, free-agent stuff, they’re going to start working with their national team soon,” Hornacek said. “When it ended we talked to his brother about some things that we were going to work on so you know we’ve got to see how the timing is, but we’ve got several players that are over there so we’ll try to get somebody out there.”
In addition to Porzingis playing for the Latvia in the European championships, the Knicks have Willy Hernangomez competing for Spain and Mindaugas Kuzminskas on Lithuania’s squad. Hornacek doesn’t know if he’ll make it to the tournament that starts at the end of July.
“Again I think we’ve got to see how the timing goes. We all like to try to get out there and watch those guys and support the players so we’ll just have to see how the schedules match up,” he said.
Longstaff was brought to the Knicks by Derek Fisher in 2014, and played a large role in the developments of Porzingis, Lance Thomas, Langston Galloway, Willy Hernangomez and Ron Baker.
Aside from Rambis — who is one of the highest-paid assistant coaches in the NBA — the only remaining Knicks assistant who was not brought in by Hornacek is Dave Bliss.