By Steve Silverman
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New York, NY (WFAN) – It’s time for the Knicks to rethink their offseason strategy.
Right now, it looks like Mike Woodson will return as head coach for the 2012-13 season. For his part, Woodson certainly got some response from his enigmatic team once he replaced Mike D’Antoni. His team surged enough to make the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference, and the trio of Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony gave an indication of how they can play together with a coach they respected and when a playoff spot was on the line.
That surge also resulted in a grand total of one playoff victory. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of Woodson or his players.
Before the Knicks make any kind of move in the offseason, the first thing they need to do is to take a look at the Eastern Conference competition for the upcoming season. The Bulls are going to have difficulties as former MVP Derrick Rose will almost certainly miss the majority of the season as he tries to recover from ACL surgery. The legendary Miami Heat have all the talent in the world and none of the heart. The Boston Celtics are almost certainly making their last run. The Indiana Pacers play with tremendous effort but will not overwhelm you with talent. The Philadelphia 76ers are scratching and hustling in the playoffs but they are the gang that can’t shoot straight.
The point is that the Eastern Conference is wide open. The elite teams – Chicago and Miami –aren’t that elite and can be beaten and the Celtics are on their last legs. A well-schooled, well-coached and well-prepared team could emerge next year and seize control of the Eastern Conference. It’s not so far-fetched that this team could be the Knicks.
However, it is pretty far-fetched that this team could be the Knicks with Woodson as head coach. He’s good and solid, but with Woodson on the bench, the team simply will go as far as Anthony will carry them. Anthony will always be the one-on-one player who likes having the responsibility of winning the game with a last-second shot on his shoulders. That makes for some exciting finishes but it doesn’t make for consistent winning.
The question for Knicks owner James Dolan is why there have been no overtures or conversations with Phil Jackson? Jackson took a year off from the NBA this year and according to his longtime girlfriend Jeanie Buss, Jackson has made a health comeback and is feeling “energetic” again.
That is an invitation for Dolan to step forward and start talking to the Zen Master.
Jackson is 66 years old but he is not too old to head back to the NBA sidelines. Whether he would make the Knicks a championship team might be a bit too much to consider, but he could turn the Knicks into a functioning team. Jackson has more status than any coach in NBA history and his credibility is framed by 11 championships. However, what has made him a championship coach is his ability to define each player’s role and make sure the player understood what he was supposed to do on the court. He did it with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Jackson may get there in a round-about way, but it is his logic of putting his best players in comfortable and functional positions that has allowed him to win more titles than any other coach in NBA history.
Hiring Jackson does not appear to be in the Knicks’ plans. The team has not even spoken to him at this point. It’s too bad. Jackson played on the last Knicks’ championship team in 1972-73, and if you ever got him to talk about his years as a Knicks player, he always spoke about them with fond and romantic memories.
In his heart of hearts, a piece of Jackson loves the Knicks.
That does not mean he would automatically switch coasts and come back to New York. But you never know unless you make that phone call.