Mike Woodson grimaces during New York's loss to Chicago last week (Getty Images)
New York Knicks owner James Dolan has been disabused of the notion to re-hire Isiah Thomas. We think. He’s chased away Donnie Walsh and Glen Grunwald, the two architects behind last season’s 54-win team, and all manner of coaches along the way. Now, with his Knicks stuck at 1-3 and facing perhaps a full quarter of the season with Tyson Chandler lost to injury, New York media are wondering who Dolan’s latest fall guy will be.
(God forbid he look in the mirror.)
Frank Isola of the New York Daily News isn’t reporting that the firing of Knicks coach Mike Woodson is imminent, but he is relaying that such a move would fall right in line with how Dolan (who was the only person in the western world that had the Knicks pegged as championship hopefuls) has done business since moving to the front of the line in New York over a decade ago. From the Daily News:
He ended Lenny Wilkens’ Hall of Fame career in the blink of a eye by ordering Isiah Thomas to fire the former Knicks coach immediately after a last-second home loss to the Houston Rockets. For a while, Mike D’Antoni stayed one step ahead when he discovered a quick escape route from the Garden on those nights when he wasn’t in the mood to listen to Dolan give the autopsy report. Eventually, he also was fired and replaced by Woodson.
Woodson has played the role of the good company man since being promoted. He accepted Dolan’s ground rules and fired his long-time agent, Keith Glass, because the Glass family had represented Dolan’s all-time adversary, Larry Brown. Woodson also allows himself to be followed by a Garden employee everywhere he goes, whether it’s at home games or on the road. Last season, the employee wouldn’t leave Woodson’s side as the coach met with family and friends outside the visiting team locker room in Atlanta. It was an awkward and uncomfortable scene.
Now, awkward and uncomfortable though as this may be, Dolan’s frighteningly typical displays of abuse of authority don’t directly correlate to an expected and eventual firing. James Dolan tapes every word that Carmelo Anthony says, too, and it’s not like he’s going to trade his beloved star anytime soon.
As Isola notes, though, Woodson is less beloved by the Knick owner, and not someone you can put on a billboard. James Dolan has proven to know absolutely nothing about how championship-level basketball is fostered – witness his endless devotion to Isiah Thomas as a personnel man, his recent firing of the not-bad Glen Grunwald, and his ridiculous recent assertion that it was championship or bust for this year’s Knicks roster – so it wouldn’t be surprising if Dolan’s limited basketball know-how led him to believe that a change in coaches could make a difference.
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As Dan Devine pointed out in his breakdown of the Knicks in the wake of the Chandler injury on Wednesday, Woodson is not above reproach. Though Carmelo Anthony worked at power forward throughout 2012-13, leading the league in scoring and the Knicks to their best record in years along the way, Woodson prefers more orthodox, “big” lineups despite the statistical hallmarks that tell him he should go the other way.
In Chandler’s absence, the Knicks have few options up front, what with Amar’e Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin only able to play spot minutes due to lingering injuries, and with Andrea Bargnani (New York’s new starting center) turning in some laughable rebound totals even by his own world’s record-poor standards. Yes, more minutes for Pablo Prigioni (too old for Dolan’s tastes?) and Beno Udrih would likely open up the team’s 24th-ranked offense, as would the eventual return of J.R. Smith once he’s rehabilitated and served his league-mandated five-game drug suspension, but not a lot of answers abound.
That is to say, assistants Jim Todd (at one time a head coach of a very bad Los Angeles Clippers team) and Herb Williams (New York’s go-to brief interim coach dating back a decade) aren’t going to change much if they take over as head coach. Assistant Darrell Walker, a onetime teammate and coaching hire (in Toronto) of Isiah Thomas could get the nod if Woodson is shoved aside, but he’s not doing anything with this crew.
Nobody is. Not even Phil Jackson, in a (very inappropriate choice from the filmmakers, if we do say so ourselves, as the “dream” involved Woodson being fired) dream scenario come true, is helping this team. The Knicks should still hang on to make the playoffs this year, but championship aspirations are ridiculous, and a coaching change won’t shift things in the slightest.
Not that James Dolan would understand any of this.
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