Mike Woodson is the last coach to bring success to the New York Knicks. It’s time to run it back with the NBA lifer.
Holy cow. The New York Knicks look like they’re about to make a great move.
Mike Woodson, who coached the Knicks to a 54-win season in 2012-13 while sporting the neatest, cleanest goatee this side of the Mississippi, will interview for the head coaching position according to Ian Begley of SNY.
Woodson could handle New York. That much was obvious. When he took over for Mike D’Antoni in 2012, a switch flipped. The Knicks turned a corner, one it hadn’t even seemed possible they could turn. They started playing like the New York Knicks should. They were scrappy, hard-working, and tough. They’d been spluttering along, but suddenly they were winning with ease. When Woodson took over, the Knicks were 18-24. They won the first five games of his tenure and finished the season 18-6 with Woodson at the helm.
Woodson’s success in 2012-13, of course, needs little explanation. The Knicks ran away from the rest of the Atlantic Division, finishing five games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets and second in the East, only behind the Miami Heat. Sure, they lost to the Indiana Pacers in the conference semifinals, but the Pacers were a tough enough opponent that there’s no shame in losing a second-round series to them.
Besides: If you think losing in six in the conference semis is bad, have you seen what the Knicks have done lately?
In 2013-14, of course, Woodson’s Knicks fell apart. But it was hardly his fault. Injuries limited Tyson Chandler to 55 games; Andrea Bargnani stunk up Madison Square Garden then tore ligaments in his elbow; Raymond Felton was arrested on felony gun charges. Almost everyone got hurt. Kenyon Martin, a dependable veteran presence the year before, appeared in only 32 games. Woodson was forced to rely on a cobbled-together group of unproven young players and career reserves: Cole Aldrich, Pablo Prigioni, Toure’ Murray, Jeremy Tyler, etc.
Sure, the 2013-14 Knicks could have been better, and Woodson probably could have handled the team more effectively. He was fired after the season, and broad consensus was that the move made sense. But there were a lot of problems with that team, and coaching was far from the worst of them.
If you doubt that, just look at the coaches the Knicks have had since they let Woodson go. Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis, Jeff Hornacek, David Fizdale, and now Mike Miller…with the benefit of hindsight, Woodson seems easily preferable to all of them.
Woodson coming back isn’t really about his specific coaching philosophy, or the unique way he can make use of the Knicks’ current roster. He’ll do absolutely fine, but that’s not the point. Rather, if the Knicks have the good sense to hire him, Woodson will bring winning ways back to MSG.
It really is that simple. The Knicks keep hiring new coaches, and they keep failing. The real solution, of course, is to give their coaches better players to work with, but coaching changes are legitimate moves too. Mike Woodson has won in New York. He’s proven himself emphatically. No one who’s coached the Knicks since he left can say that.
As for whether he’s the right fit for the current Knicks’ team, who can say? Right now, the Knicks are young; when Woodson coached them to the playoffs, he leaned on a veteran core. But that’s a small obstacle.
And he’ll have one essential advantage: He’s done it before, in New York. He’s earned a degree of credibility. He took the Knicks to the conference semifinals, for goodness’ sake. It’ll be awfully difficult to call for his head the moment the Knicks hit a skid.
Bringing Woodson back is emphatically the right decision. If he can recreate anything remotely close to what the Knicks did in his first tenure, maybe the Knicks can finally drag themselves out of their seven-season slump. If he can’t — well, maybe even Mike Woodson won’t be enough to make the Knicks stop losing. But as fans have seen since Woodson left, a lot of coaches can do a lot worse.
Critics will accuse the Knicks of trying to recreate the glory days rather than building something new. That’s a legitimate critique. But look at what the Knicks have done recently. Compared to the last seven years, even a shallow facsimile of the last time Mike Woodson coached the Knicks sounds like a dream come true.