Nuggets head coach Mike Malone was ultimately unsure of what to make of why the Knicks fired David Fizdale so soon, but he knew one thing about his peer.
Fizdale is a "good coach."
Malone defended Fizdale, whom the Knicks fired Dec. 6 amid their 4-18 start to the 2019-20 season and after they went 17-65 on the 2018-19 campaign, before the Nuggets (16-8) hosted New York (6-20) Sunday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
"They needed to make a change," Malone said of the Knicks. "They made the change they felt was appropriate. Obviously, there has been so much written about and talked about since David has been fired, in terms of, 'Is David the fall guy? Does it start up higher -- front office, ownership?' I can't answer those questions.
"I know Fiz is a good coach. I know he's a good man. I know that all the players in the locker room still believe in him. Obviously, the day he got fired, the players had a players-only meeting, from what I hear, and talked about how they have to go out there and do a much better job. So it didn't all fall on Fiz.
"One thing I can say -- I'm the son of a coach. We all know, when you get into this business, what it entails. When things don't go right, the first guy they're going to look at is the head coach. Unfortunately, that's what happened to Fiz. I feel for him."
Hired on the heels of an unsuccessful stint in Memphis with the Grizzlies from 2016-17, Fizdale was terminated 19 games into his second year there, where he started the 2017-18 season off 7-12.
Malone experienced the same struggles with the Sacramento Kings from 2013-14. After the Kings went 28-54 in Malone's initial 2013-14 season, Sacramento's 11-13 start to the 2014-15 campaign saw Malone get fired 24 games into his second year.
He bounced back in Denver with the Nuggets, who were patient despite missing the playoffs the first three years from 2015-18. The Nuggets broke through in 2018-19, reaching the Western Conference Semifinals after going 54-28 on the regular season.