Now that the nasty business side of the NBA seems about resolved, the Knicks can finally get back to tending to their own personal matters.
First order of business for the new-look team is to find a defensive identity, and they think they found that over the summer. Former Hawks head coach Mike Woodson was brought on board to help shore up a porous Knicks defense that’s lacked intensity since the Patrick Ewing days.
Woodson, who spent a year away from the game, said the absence made him miss his craft and he was itching to get back to coaching in any capacity. He brings over moderate success as the lead man, guiding the Hawks for six seasons (2004-10), including playoff appearances in each of the last three seasons. Woodson, who went 11-18 in the playoffs as head coach, had even better success as an assistant when he was on former Knicks head coach Larry Brown’s 2004 world champion Detroit Pistons squad.
Such a pedigree was what lured Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni to Woodson.
“When the possibility came up, even thoughI had a full staff, the ability to addanothergood mind was a good thing and I jumped at it,” said D’Antoni. “Not that I needed another voice because we have some great assistant coaches, but we’re just adding another talented coach to the group. We’ll come out of this a better staff. … I’m looking forward to working with him and getting our philosophies on paper andmaking the Knicks abetter team next year.”
D’Antoni, who will be entering the final year of his contract, said he’s not looking over his shoulder even though Woodson was reportedly ushered James Dolan’s way by good friend Isiah Thomas. D’Antoni also bristled when the topic came up that the Knicks were in search of a defensive coordinator.
“Defensive specialty coach? I don’t know where that came from, but we expect him to help [all facets],” D’Antoni said, adding every coach’s job is up for review regardless of contract. “I’m OKwith a one-year deal. We all have to do somethingto earn another year. Every NBA coach has to produces, so one or 10 years doesn’t matter.”
Woodson downplayed the waiting-in-the-wings scenario and said he’s just grateful to get back into the league. ?
“Expectations are always high,regardless if you’re on a one, two or three-year deal.You’ve got to produce and I felt that experience in Atlanta.I’m just happy to get an opportunity to get back into the league and coach,” Woodson said. “I sat a year — the first break I had in26 years — and it gaveme an opportunity to reflect. I’m chomping at the bit to get back to coaching.”
Woodson said he’s not coming in as some sort of defensive guru — even though that’s his specialty. He added despite them being a playoff team last season there’s so much that needs to be done, not just one specific area.
“I can’t really talk about specific players [due to the lockout], but I see a veteran team that’s headed in the right direction,” Woodson said. “Once the [Carmelo Anthony] trade was made, they didn’t have a long period of time to get going, but I think he and his staff did a great job of working with what they had. The Boston series wasa greatseries but there’s always room for improvement.”
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8 for all the news leading up to NBA free agency on Dec. 9.