Mike Woodson believes he never was treated fairly by the Hawks or fully appreciated by the fans or the media in Atlanta (me in particular, unless I just misread the glares and/or strings of expletives any time I said hello).
Well, if Woodson wanted another chance to prove himself as an NBA head coach, he just got it. He has been handed the keys to CarmeloGate, Linsanity and everything else that goes with being the head coach of the New York Knicks (at least on an interim basis). Yahoo! Sports was the first of multiple outlets to report Wednesday that Mike D’Antoni has “resigned” as the Knicks’ head coach and will be replaced by Woodson, who was an assistant on his staff.
It may be only a short-term position for Woodson. (What isn’t short-term in New York?) But at the very least, he presumably will coach the team for the remainder of the regular season and in the playoffs, should the Knicks make it. They have lost six straight to fall to 18-24 and entered Wednesday tied with Milwaukee for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
There had been several reports of a feud between D’Antoni and Carmelo Anthony, whose recent return to the lineup coincided with the team’s skid. Anthony denied a New York Post report that he wants to be traded before Thursday’s deadline, writing on his Twitter feed, “Alright, enough with all this trade talk. It’s making me sick to my stomach to hear that I wanna leave NY.”
Next stop for him: The “Iso-Melo” offense?
About Woodson: This will be severe test of his ability to pull a clearly dysfunctional bunch together. The Knicks aren’t short of talent — Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, Tyson Chandler, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert — even if there’s no indication that all of the pieces can function together.
With the Hawks, Woodson’s won-loss record improved every season over six years, from 13-69 in 2004-05 to 53-29 in 2009-10. But he was fired after the last season because of the team’s inability to win a single second-round playoff game. (His replacement, Larry Drew, coached the Hawks to a first-round mild upset of Orlando last season and took the Chicago Bulls to six games in the second round.)
Woodson is not foreign to personality conflicts in the locker room. He and Josh Smith banged heads often. The Hawks’ locker room wasn’t always a close-knit bunch. But that pales in comparison to the Knicks’ situation.
Woodson also now will be operating in the spotlight of the New York media. I mean, if he thought I was hard to deal with, good luck in Gotham. But he wanted another chance, and now he has gotten it.
By Jeff Schultz