May 8 2012
On Sunday, the Knicks won their first playoff game since 2001. Now, it looks like the man who piloted them to that victory is going to stick around for a while. According to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, the Knicks are now in talks with current interim-head coach Mike Woodson about a contract extension. With Woodson looking like the guy, other rumored candidates Phil Jackson and John Callipari seem to be completely out of the running. Isola’s report did not mention potential terms of the contract, but I would estimate terms close to 3 years and in the ballpark of 10-15 million dollars. Woodson has done a good job since taking over for the much maligned Mike D’Antoni. The Knicks finished out the season 18-6 in Woodson’s 24 games as head coach and have won a playoff game for the first time since the French Revolution, albeit having played poorly the rest of the series versus Miami.
Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this. I definitely don’t feel good about it. Woodson has done a solid job coaching the team, but I don’t necessarily think that highly of him as a head coach. I will admit that he is a great defensive coach. He took an already good defensive Knick team, top 10 in defensive efficiency under D’Antoni, and turned them into an even better defensive team, top 5 in defensive efficiency under Woodson. However, I’m not sold on his offensive system and his way of coaching offense. I did like a few of the schemes I saw from the Knick offense during the season, but in the playoffs he has badly reverted back to his old “isolation-Joe” style of coaching, stemming back to his Atlanta days. I think the Knicks need a more creative mind to get the trio of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler to excel offensively. Defense is not a problem with the Knicks anymore. Worst case scenario, the Knicks are going to be a solid defense. I am worried about this team’s offense. On paper, the Knicks should be one of the better offensive teams in the league. They aren’t. I believe that Woodson’s offense is way too isolation oriented and that his system doesn’t manufacture baskets. While the Knicks have a lot of talent offensively, it hasn’t produced this season and especially in the playoffs. Rather than manufacture baskets with screens, cuts and offensive movement, Woodson has put the ball in Carmelo Anthony’s hands for isolation after isolation after isolation. If you really go back and look at New York’s offense in the playoffs, they have done a lot of standing and watching while Carmelo Anthony works 1 on 1 on the perimeter. Anthony hasn’t dominated and the Knick offense has been awful. I understand that the Knicks were good offensively under Woodson in the regular season, but I could care less. I do not want this team losing in the first round every year. I want a coach that can bring deep playoff runs and championships to this franchise. Given how the Knicks, from purely an X’s and O’s standpoint, has performed under Woodson this postseason, I’m not convinced he can do that.
All that being said, Woodson does have a lot of things going for him. One of the main things going for Woodson is that Anthony has been far better post-D’Antoni than he was under D’Antoni. Rather than run a point guard oriented system, Woodson has decided to run his offense through Carmelo Anthony. To be fair, Jeremy Lin has been injured which has sort of forced Woodson’s hand, but we have to go off of what we’ve seen out of the Knicks. We haven’t really seen the Woodson era Knicks with Lin, so let’s go ahead and assume that Woodson is going to continue to run his offense through Melo, especially given the regular season success of the offense. Given his greatly increased role in the Knick offense, Anthony is a big supporter of Woodson and has publicly backed him. The whole D’Antoni situation showcased just how much pull Anthony has inside the Knick organization with Guitar-Jimmy Dolan and Scottie O’Neil, so his public admiration for Woodson is a very good thing for the interm coach. Another thing that Woodson has going for him is that he is more staunch on his players than was Mike D’Antoni. “Accountability” has been a big theme since Woodson took over. Woodson has shown a strong enough gut to call out multiple players in the media about various changes he would like to see, such as Carmelo Anthony’s conditioning and JR Smith’s pant level. The team has responded rather well to Woodson’s more strict style. Personally, I think it is sad that grown athletes making millions of dollars need a coach to hold them accountable, but that is conversation for another day.
Overall, I’m not a huge fan of this move. Does Woodson deserve the job based on his performance this season? Probably so. However, are there better candidates out there? Absolutely. Is Mike Woodson a championship level coach? I don’t believe so and Woodson has no track record out there to prove me wrong. In Atlanta, Woodson’s teams never advanced past the 2nd round. In each of his last two seasons as head coach, the Hawks were swept out of the playoffs. In four playoff appearances, including this season, Woodson has accumulated a sorry record of 12-21. Say what you want about Atlanta not having championship level talent, but right now the Knicks don’t have championship level talent. Across the board, the Knicks will lack depth next season. I believe New York needs a coach that can take them to the next level and I’m not convinced Woodson can do that. I would have liked to see the Knicks perform their due diligence. Rather than re-sign Woodson now, I would have liked them to wait until after the NBA Finals. You never know what can happen in the coaching world. Surprise firings happen all the time. I think the Knicks should have waited and fully understood and analyzed the full coaching market before making a decision. Unfortunately, logic and patience rarely win out inside Madison Square Garden and it seems that Mike Woodson is going to be the guy. Buckle up, Knicks fans.[twitter-follow screen_name='tarmosino' show_screen_name='no']