NEW YORK (AP/WFAN) – Knicks owner James Dolan gave his organization a vote of confidence hours after it and former head coach Mike D’Antoni “mutually agreed” to part ways.
“I believe in our players, I believe in talent, I believe in their commitment to…get this right,” Dolan told reporters at a news conference early Wednesday evening.
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Dolan said that D’Antoni felt it was best for the organization if he was no longer coach of the team. The Knicks owner said D’Antoni “offered to stay” but that both agreed it was best for the team to have a “new voice” moving forward.
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Mike Woodson will now take over as head coach for the remainder of the season. However, Dolan stressed that Woodson is aware the team will “re-evaluate” the situation at the end of the season. He said he believes Woodson would help the team make a playoff push.
Glen Grunwald, the team’s interim general manager, said he was “disappointed” by what happened and that it was a “rough go for Mike.”
Woodson, for his part, said that he understands that expectations are high and believes the team still has an opportunity to finish strong.
“We still have a grand opportunity to do something special here in New York,” he said. “I’m going to hold these guys accountable.”
D’Antoni put the Knicks through a morning workout Wednesday and had been preparing to coach them against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.
New York has lost six in a row for the second time this season and has fallen into a tie for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The decision came just hours after star Carmelo Anthony denied there was a rift with D’Antoni.
The Knicks had struggled since Anthony returned from a groin injury 10 games ago. There was speculation that he and D’Antoni did not get along, though the All-Star forward said Wednesday he supported the coach “100 percent.”
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Never able to duplicate his success in Phoenix, D’Antoni was headed to his third losing season since signing a $24 million, four-year contract in 2008 that made him one of the NBA’s highest-paid coaches. He never won a playoff game in New York, where the Knicks were focused on the future during his first two years and made numerous changes that didn’t give him much of a chance to compete.
But they spent big this season, bringing in Tyson Chandler to play between Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, while adding players such as Baron Davis and JR Smith during the season. D’Antoni acknowledged Wednesday morning it was his responsibility to make everything work.
His departure came less than a month after he seemed rejuvenated by the emergence of Jeremy Lin, the undrafted point guard from Harvard who came off the end of the bench and proved to be the player who could properly run D’Antoni’s offensive system.
But the success didn’t last once Anthony returned, with the Knicks going 2-8 in a season that D’Antoni said should see them contend for a championship.
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