According to Ian Begley over at ESPN New York, the Knicks are moving closer and closer to removing the interim tag from Mike Woodson’s title and making him the full time coach.
Woodson was wildly popular when he replaced Mike D’Antoni, winning over stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire with his coaching style. He guided the Knicks to an 18-6 record to finish off the regular season, boosting the team to the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference before falling 4 games to 1 against the Miami Heat in the playoffs.
There is no Knick fan in this realm that is at all unhappy with the team bringing back Woodson. I’ve written about this before, and its worth mentioning briefly again to keep fans grounded.
My original point on Woodson was how much of his success is directly linked to his coaching and how much of the team’s success was due to anyone coaching this team not named Mike D’Antoni?
It is clear that the defense played with a different level of vigor under Woodson, and the offensive had more rhythm and flow once the Seven Seconds Or Less offense was eliminated. But, again, I don’t think anyone can judge how much was Woodson and how much was the removal of D’Antoni. I referred to it as the “Jerry Manuel Theory”, hearkening back to when Manuel replaced Willie Randolph mid-season for the New York Mets and brought the team within a win of the playoffs, then failing as a manager the next two seasons.
With all that said, do I think there was a better option for this team on the coaching market? Outside of Phil Jackson, who I believe is retired for good, no. Stan Van Gundy wouldn’t have made sense because, while he is a great coach, his personality is too big for a James Dolan organization. Jeff Van Gundy and Dolan clashed often, and Stan Van has more diva qualities than his brother. It would’ve been a recipe for disaster, but definitely entertaining.
The Knicks couldn’t have done better than Mike Woodson, but nobody should be going out and crowning the Knicks as champions. They have the talent to be a Top-5 Eastern Conference team. It seems that they now have stability at the head coaching position and someone in place their players enjoy playing for, which boosts team chemistry.
However, the danger is that Mike Woodson will now be working with expectations for the first time. Knicks fans would’ve taken anything he had to offer at the end of last season and in the playoffs. Now, we know what we saw and we know what we want.
That, more than anything else, is the most dangerous label Woodson will now have next to his name.