NEW YORK (AP) — The New York Knicks hired former Atlanta Hawks coach Mike Woodson on Monday as an assistant to Mike D’Antoni.

Though frequently considered a defensive specialist, Woodson made clear during a conference call that he can help D’Antoni in many roles.

“I’m just a coach that’s looking for an opportunity. I have experience and I’m just excited about the opportunity,” Woodson said. “That’s all a coach in this league can ask for.”

Woodson led the Hawks to three playoff berths in his six seasons in Atlanta, but was let go after they were swept in embarrassing fashion by Orlando in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.

He interviewed for the Detroit job that instead went to Lawrence Frank and also was a candidate in Houston, but now will try to help D’Antoni address the Knicks’ struggles on the defensive end.

Yet D’Antoni also tried to downplay the notion of a “defensive specialist.”

“I don’t know where that came from, other than people writing about it,” he said. “But he’s a good coach.”

Woodson began his pro playing career with the Knicks as the No. 12 pick in the 1980 NBA draft out of Indiana, where he played with former New York coach and president Isiah Thomas, and current general manager Glen Grunwald.

As an assistant to Larry Brown in Detroit, Woodson was credited with building the defense that helped the Pistons win the 2004 NBA championship. He was then hired in Atlanta, where he increased his win total every year from 13 in his first season to 53 in 2009-10. But the Hawks lost their four second-round games to the Magic by an average of 25.3 points, the most lopsided sweep in NBA history.

He gets back to work now with a Knicks team that has plenty of offense with Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, but remains one of the league’s poorest defensive clubs. D’Antoni’s strength has always been his offensive schemes, and Woodson said he can offer input in that regard, as well as working with young players.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

From the Knicks:

NBA Coaching Veteran Joins Mike D’Antoni’s Staff

NEW YORK, August 29, 2011 – The New York Knickerbockers announced today that Mike Woodson has joined Head Coach Mike D’Antoni’s staff as an assistant coach. Per team policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“I was extremely encouraged after meeting with Mike that he would be a great addition to our coaching staff and we are pleased to welcome him back to New York,” D’Antoni said. “Mike brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team and we are confident that he will help us as we continue towards our goal of building a championship team.”

Woodson joins the Knickerbockers after serving as the head coach of the Atlanta Hawks for six seasons from 2004-2010, where he guided the Hawks to the playoffs in each of his last three seasons. In six seasons in Atlanta, Woodson amassed a 209-286 (.419) coaching record in 492 games while posting an 11-18 record in 29 playoff games. Prior to joining the Hawks, Woodson served as an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks (1996-99), Cleveland Cavaliers (1999-2001), Philadelphia 76ers (2001-03) and the 2003-04 NBA Champion Detroit Pistons.

“I consider Mike D’Antoni to be one of the top coaches in our game and I am thankful for this opportunity,” Woodson said. “I’m excited to re-join this great franchise where my professional career started and will work to build off of the success they had here last season.”

Woodson was drafted by New York with the 12th overall selection in the 1980 NBA Draft out of Indiana University and averaged 14.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 786 career games over 11 NBA seasons with New York, New Jersey, Kansas City-Sacramento, L.A. Clippers, Houston and Cleveland. In his rookie season with New York, Woodson averaged 4.7 points in 81 games under the legendary Red Holzman.

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