By John Schmeelk
» More Columns
There are a couple different ways to look at Mike Woodson’s return as Knicks head coach next year.
Here’s why his return makes sense:
Mike Woodson coached the Knicks to an 18-6 record and got them into the playoffs despite a number of injuries. He continued to improve the defense, which had already gotten better under Mike D’Antoni, and made the Knicks a top-five team in defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). Woodson held every player on the team accountable and got Carmelo Anthony to play his best and most complete basketball of his career. He also isn’t a big name, a very un-sexy choice by an owner that appreciates Q rating as much as he does basketball acumen. That’s a good thing. For all these reasons, the move to bring back Mike Woodson makes sense.
Here’s why his return doesn’t makes sense:
The Knicks are a win-now team with a strange combination of supremely talented players. The Knicks arguably have the best defender in the league and the best pure scorer. Amar’e Stoudemire has yet to figure out how to succeed with Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler. Being capped out, there are few ways to improve the team. The Knicks needed to hit a home run with their coach for the next three seasons, when all three stars are still under contract. To hit that home run, you have to swing for the fences.
I have no idea if Phil Jackson or Jerry Sloan would even have considered the Knicks with their dysfunctional front office, but a call should have been made. Why didn’t they wait and see exactly how frustrated Tom Thibodeau was about not getting a contract extension? Could Stan Van Gundy have gotten through his introductory press conference with the Knicks without breaking the team’s media policy and getting fired? Probably not. But these are things that should have been explored. I’m not sure that they were.
As good as Mike Woodson was as Knicks coach, his weaknesses were exposed in the playoffs. With an offense centered around Carmelo Anthony isolation opportunities, the Heat were able to easily shut it down. Now if Jeremy Lin is there, does the ball move better and the offense flow differently? Quite possibly, but there is no way to know for sure. It is definitely disturbing that similar things happened to Woodson when he coached the Hawks. Come playoff time, his team had trouble scoring with a stagnant offense. The Hawks didn’t have a good point guard either, but the trend causes second thoughts.
Unless Jeremy Lin and Steve Novak are granted some kind of Bird rights, the Knicks won’t have much of an opportunity to improve themselves this offseason. The mid-level exception will go to a point guard. Then there’s the head coach, someone who has to be a difference-maker. The Knicks have a three-year window with this group to win a title, and now they are committed to Mike Woodson being the guy who is going to take them there. This is the guy that the Knicks are placing their championship hopes on.
Don’t tell me that there aren’t other people you would rather see in that chair.
You can follow me on Twitter here for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and New York sports.
Knicks fans, was bringing Mike Woodson back a good decision? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…