The professionalism and unflappable demeanor that marked Howard Eisley’s distinguished playing career are now emerging as the trademarks of his impressive coaching resume.
“I’m looking to try to build on some of the things we started last year,” says Eisley, who returned to his former team when he rejoined the Knickerbockers as an assistant coach on Aug. 19, 2016. “We basically have a new team with some of the personnel being different. Just to be with these guys and have an opportunity to work with them. Every year brings in a new team, so I’m very hopeful and really looking forward that we can try to get off to a good start this year.
Eisley is in his second season with the Knicks, and in his fifth season overall as an NBA coach. He joined the Knicks following two seasons as an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards under Randy Wittman.
“Howard’s been around, he knows the League,” says head coach Jeff Hornacek. “Howard is a guy who can really relate to having to execute plays on both sides of the ball. I played with him in Utah, and he controlled the offense. His calmness kind of lends itself to our players. Sometimes we get on a player, but Howard has that calm voice that ends up being able to make his point in a different way. He’s very knowledgeable about the game and he’s been on some great teams. He’s seen it all.”
Prior to joining the Wizards in 2014-15, Howard served three seasons (2010-11 through 2012-13) as player development assistant for the Los Angeles Clippers, then was promoted by the Clippers to assistant player skills coach in 2013-14. An active player as recently as 2006, he has adapted seamlessly to his new career.
“As a coach, you have to look at the game from a different lens as opposed to playing, when mostly you’re thinking yourself and about your game,” says Eisley, 44. “As a coach, you have to look at the whole team. As far as the individuals on the team, you have to gage and monitor their development and their personal feelings, so you’re more concentrated on the whole as opposed to just one guy.”
Originally drafted by Minnesota in the second round (30th overall) of the 1994 NBA Draft, Howard played 12 NBA seasons with eight teams, averaging 6.5 points and 3.5 assists over 786 games. He went a career 516-1,474 (.350) from three-point range with two 100+ home run seasons. One of the League’s most durable performers, Eisley played the entire 82-game schedule five times, and played in 443 consecutive games from Dec. 7, 1995 through the end of the 2000-01 season. During his career, he played for the likes of Jerry Sloan, Don Nelson, Jeff Van Gundy, Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens, Mike D’Antoni, George Karl and Mike Dunleavy Sr. He also played in the CBA in 1995-96.
Eisley played the bulk of his career (435 games) with the Utah Jazz, where he was a teammate of Head Coach Jeff Hornacek on the Jazz’ back-to-back Western Conference Championship teams of 1996-97 and 1997-98. He and Hornacek were among the players honored by the Jazz at the 20th Anniversary reunion of the 1997 West Champions at the Knicks-Jazz game on Mar. 22, 2017.
Following five years in Utah, Eisley played three seasons as a Knick (2001-02 through 2003-04), averaging 7.4 points in 154 career games (99 starts) in orange and blue. He averaged a career-high 9.1 points as a Knick in 2002-03 (fourth-best on the team), scoring a career-high 30 points at Memphis on Jan. 31, 2003.
Howard was acquired by the Knicks from Dallas on Aug. 10, 2001 in a three-way deal with Houston that also involved Glen Rice, Muggsy Bogues and Shandon Anderson. After the Knicks failed to make the post-season in 2002 and 2003, he was traded to Phoenix as part of the Jan. 5, 2004 megadeal that brought Stephon Marbury to New York.
“It was great; you had the opportunity to play on the biggest stage,” remembers Howard of his Knicks playing career. “Unfortunately, I feel like we were never able to get our whole team on the floor. We had setbacks, injury-wise, that hurt us and prevented us from reaching our potential. I think we had a pretty talented team, a cohesive team that could have done well. It just didn’t work out because of the setbacks we had.”
Eisley averaged 12.9 points in a standout, four-year career at Boston College, earning All-Big East Second Team honors as a junior and senior. He graduated from Boston College with a degree in communications.
Born on Dec. 4, 1972 in Detroit, Eisley was the Jazz’ nominee for the NBA Sportsmanship Award in both 1997-98 and 1998-99. Howard and his wife Tiyesh have two children, Kennedy (16) and Howard Jr. (13).