During ESPN's NBA Finals media conference call Monday afternoon, TV analyst and former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy said that he agreed with the re-signing of Mike Woodson.
"I thought Mike Woodson was the right move for the team," he said. "Obviously Phil Jackson has been the most successful coach in NBA history, but I think Woodson is the right fit at the right time. He performed exceptionally well in the regular season and the Knicks obviously had a difficult matchup with the Heat in the first round. You’ve got to hand it to him in Game 4 and I thought they played well. I thought they showed a good amount of growth over that last 24 games of the regular season and into the postseason."
Knicks GM Glen Grunwald said in late May that Woodson was the only candidate for the team's head coaching job, and that he never reached out to Jackson or any other potential candidate during the interview process.
"I think Woody earned the right to be the first person we talked to, and turned out to be the only person we talked to," Grunwald said.
Like Woodson, Van Gundy also took over for the Knicks toward the end of the season. In fact, they both did so with just about the same number of games remaining. While Van Gundy coached 23 games during the 1995-96 season after replacing Don Nelson (they went 13-10), Woodson manned the sidelines for 24 games this past year, as the team went 18-6.
The Knicks' front office is hoping Woodson leads the team to about the same record Van Gundy did in his first full season in New York, finishing 57-25 and with the second seed in the Atlantic Division. He had some ups and downs in the following years, but he finally led the Knicks to the Finals in 1999.
According to ESPN New York's Stephen A. Smith, Woodson's contract includes two guaranteed years and a third-year option, worth approximately $4 million per season.
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