No, this wasn't a shameless attempt from Karl Malone to get some attention as a potential head coach of the Utah Jazz... or maybe it was, but he certainly didn't frame it that way. It also wasn't a shot at Tom Thibodeau, who has led the Knicks to a solid start despite generally low expectations of the team from analysts.
Instead, the NBA's second highest scorer of all time raised the question of why all-time greats are not seen coaching their former teams more often, and he pointed at the Knicks all-time leader in points — and rebounds, and steals, and blocks, and games played, etc. — as a prime example.
"Can we stop? Can we stop all the bullsh--, y'all, in New York? Why in the hell is Patrick Ewing not the head coach of the Knicks?" Malone asked Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles, fellow retired NBA stars who now host the "Knuckleheads" podcast from The Players' Tribune. "If you want to stop ten thousand fans from rooting for the other team all the time... are you serious?"
But he's not citing Ewing's 52-54 coaching record at Georgetown as the primary reason, nor is he looking at his wealth of NBA coaching experience from roles with the Rockets, Magic and Hornets, though that doesn't hurt his case. Instead, Malone wants to focus on the legacy and experience that Ewing has with the Knicks that few other people can provide.
"Here's where I've seen a trend. They don't want — a lot of these teams — they don't want a Hall of Fame vet that people respect, admire and listen to. That's intimidating to them," Malone said. "They want somebody that tells them what to do.
"We got a new owner in Utah right now, Ryan Smith, he bought the Jazz. There ain't no way — forget me, forget John [Stockton], forget Jeff [Hornacek] — there's no way we shouldn't have a vet that played with the Utah Jazz."
Ewing, with agreement from Richardson and Miles, went on to explain that for new players arriving at training camp or looking to begin a new part of their career with a new team, having someone at the helm who has already been through it all is an important voice to have. After all, Ewing played for the Knicks for 15 seasons with ten different coaches at the helm, including Rick Pitino, Pat Riley, Jeff Van Gundy and others. How much could a Knicks player possibly experience that Ewing hasn't gone through himself?
"But don't stop there. Why isn't it more... why is Clyde Drexler not coaching the Houston Rockets? Think about what I'm saying," Malone added.
So who does fit this bill around the league — a former longtime player of a team that went on to coach that same team, not in a "last coach" on the bench role, as Malone specifies? There aren't too many. Tim Duncan was the assistant coach of the Spurs and served as acting head coach in a game last season, but stepped down in November. The aforementioned Hornacek was with his former teams — the Jazz and the Suns — in the early 2010s as an assistant, but now works with the Rockets. Caron Butler started his career with the Miami Heat and now finds himself as an assistant coach in South Florida, albeit not the definitive lead assistant to Erik Spoelstra.
So should teams follow Malone's advice more closely? Should the Wizards look to replace Scott Brooks — it's not too early to say he's on the hot seat — with someone like Juwan Howard, who currently serves as Michigan's head coach but spent the first seven years of his NBA career with the Wizards (and Bullets)? If Dwayne Casey doesn't pan out in Detroit, should Chauncey Billups continue his escalation up the coaching ladder and run the show for the Pistons? Was Wes Unseld's less-than-stellar stint as the Bullets' head coach after a terrific career just an anomaly? It's an interesting thought.