By John Schmeelk
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Steve Popper of The Record wrote an excellent article on Wednesday indicating that Mike Woodson might once again be on the hot seat for the Knicks. He cited the possibility that the coach has finally lost the locker room, and that parts of the team are pushing Knicks owner James Dolan to finally pull the plug on Woodson. It is a move that should have been made months ago, but even now it could be enough to move the Knicks into decent playoff position.
I wrote at the end of December that the only thing keeping Woodson from the unemployment line was the confidence of his superstar, Carmelo Anthony. Popper similarly pointed out in his column that Dolan’s line in the sand in regard to his coaches was whether or not they had the confidence of their players. Anthony has questioned the team’s effort and rotations. Tyson Chandler has talked about the team’s defensive strategy. Amar’e Stoudemire is now talking about playing time.
Perhaps the biggest indictment of Woodson was the team’s collective lack of effort against an awful Milwaukee Bucks team on Wednesday night. When a team stops being motivated by a coach, it is usually time to move on. Larry Brown feuded endlessly with his players and soon he was out the door. The Jeff Van Gundy drama in his final couple seasons was often the target of Dolan’s ire. When Mike D’Antoni had apparently lost his connection with Anthony, Dolan moved on. Sometimes a new voice is needed and can provide a spark. We saw it two years ago when Woodson replaced D’Antoni. It is needed now. It was needed a month ago.
Another reason Dolan has reportedly been hesitant to pull the trigger on a coaching change is the lack of a top-level replacement. But at this point, the identity of the replacement is almost secondary to the need for change itself. Whoever the new coach is, whether it is Herb Williams or a P.J. Carlesimo type, it will be a departure from what has not worked so far this year. The Knicks could then look in the offseason when there will be many more top-level candidates that could be willing to be the Knicks’ new coach. When the Knicks stuck with Woodson after D’Antoni’s firing, they settled. The head-coach position is one in which the Knicks have an advantage over everyone else in the league, since a salary cap doesn’t limit what they can spend there.
An upper-echelon coach is one of the things that can convince Anthony to remain in New York. Everyone, including Anthony, knows Woodson is not that guy. So if he is going to be fired once the season is over, why not move on from him now and give this season some chance for success? Does anyone really think that Woodson, as stubborn as he is, can turn this team around using his typical methods and strategy?
Everyone knows the old adage — insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. Right now the team is out of the playoffs — can it really get much worse for the Knicks? There is a far higher potential reward than there is a risk in moving on from Woodson. Any cost-benefit analysis would show that.
As bad as the Knicks have been, the season still has some hope. The Knicks are only five games out of the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, which would help them avoid the Heat and Pacers in the first round of the playoffs. That’s all that’s left for the Knicks, but it is something. It could give the team a chance to get into the second round of the playoffs for an eventual defeat at the hands of the Heat or Pacers. Anyone would sign up for that the way this year has gone. I don’t think anyone honestly believes that is going to happen under Woodson. Maybe it could happen under someone else, but there’s only one way to find out.
You can follow me on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
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