- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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New York Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald was effusive in his praise of interim coach Mike Woodson on Wednesday.
But Grunwald stopped short of endorsing Woodson, his longtime friend, for the Knicks' full-time coaching job.
"We're not talking about any staffing questions today. .... Right now we just need to stay focused on the playoffs," Grunwald said when asked about the Knicks' coaching vacancy.
Grunwald was officially named as Knicks general manager on Tuesday. He had served as the team's GM on an interim basis since June, when he took over for ex-president and GM Donnie Walsh.
Grunwald's hiring could help Woodson's case to be retained as head coach. He and Grunwald played college basketball at Indiana together and they remain close.
"I've known Woody a long time and we've had our separations doing different jobs and stuff like that. It's amazing to see how he's grown as a person and as a coach in particular," Grunwald said. "He's always been a great guy and a wonderful person. But to see him as a head coach now after six years down in Atlanta, that kind of experience where he grew the team and really improved over the course of his tenure there, has really been impressive."
Woodson took over the Knicks on March 14 when they were six games under .500 and in the midst of a six-game losing streak. Since then, the Knicks have gone 17-6. They clinched a playoff berth last Thursday.
"Woody's done a fantastic job. I can't give him enough credit for the job he's done since here," Grunwald said. "Normal coaching changes don't result in such a dramatic improvement in a team's performance so I think that speaks very well of him."
But is it enough to land him the job on a full-time basis? That remains to be seen.
Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan has said that the team would reassess its coaching situation after the season. Many expect the Knicks to go after Phil Jackson, who won two of his 13 championship rings as a player with the Knicks. Jackson is currently retired from basketball. Kentucky coach John Calipari could also be a candidate. He has denied interest in leaving Kentucky.
If Woodson isn't retained by the Knicks, there should be several suitors for his services. But, according to two sources with knowledge of Woodson's thinking, his priority is to return to New York.
Woodson has publicly stated several times that he'd "love" to coach the team next season. He recently received a strong endorsement from Carmelo Anthony.
Grunwald didn't want to discuss Woodson's future or the future of any Knick expected to be a free-agent this summer, such as Jeremy Lin.
"I'm not focused on the summer right now. Certainly I've thought about it, but I think we need to stay focused on the moment," Grunwald said. "The playoffs are upon us. We have an opportunity as a team. Who knows what our next opportunity is to do something good? So let's stay focused on the playoffs right now, let's do as well as we can. And then let's evaluate after it's all done."
Grunwald said the final decision on the Knicks' next coach wouldn't solely be his. He said it would be an "organizational decision."
Walsh reportedly had autonomy during his tenure as Knicks president and GM but, according to reports, he was overruled by Dolan on the organization's decision to trade for Anthony last February.
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