- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every weekday throughout the season, ESPNNewYork.com will tackle a burning question about the Knicks in our "Opening Tip" segment.
Today's Burning Question: How should the MSG crowd react to Mike D'Antoni?
Mike D'Antoni brings his band of underachieving Lakers to Madison Square Garden tonight. That means D'Antoni will be at the Garden for the first since he resigned from his post as Knicks coach last March.
So how should the Garden faithful react when they see D'Antoni on the sideline?
Treat the ex-coach as if he's Curt Schilling on the mound at Yankee Stadium?
Or give him a hearty welcome?
I think we all know D'Antoni will be greeted with a long chorus of boos during introductions and, probably, throughout the game.
I covered D'Antoni during parts of his three-and-a-half-year run with the Knicks. He was a genuinely nice guy whenever I was around, even when his team was playing poorly or the fan base was calling for his head.
But he'll be booed on Thursday for two reasons: because Mike Woodson has succeeded where D'Antoni largely failed. Woodson's been able to successfully tweak his system to suit the talent on his roster.
The Goatee is 34-11 since taking over for D'Antoni. He also went 18-6 in the 2011-12 regular season immediately after succeeding D'Antoni.
The second reason D'Antoni will be booed at MSG is because of what he said to ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne recently about his decision to leave the Phoenix Suns in the summer of 2008 and come to New York.
“I shouldn’t have gone to New York,” he told Shelburne. "I should have stuck in there and battled. You don’t get to coach somebody like him (Steve Nash) too many times. It’s pretty sacred and you need to take care of it. I didn’t ... .
"I think we got frustrated and I got frustrated. That’s why I left."
D'Antoni meant that he shouldn't have left a good thing in Phoenix, and I appreciate his honesty in admitting that publicly. But it's not something that's going to be taken lightly by the Garden crowd.
Thursday night's game in New York also happens to be poorly timed for D'Antoni. The Lakers are 4-8 since he took over and the slow start seems to be wearing on him. D'Antoni's patience wore thin with a reporter after the Lakers' last loss in Cleveland. The reporter insinuated that D'Antoni didn't work on defense during the team's shootaround. This suggestion made D'Antoni visibly upset; he felt it was inaccurate.
"You're starting to (make me mad)," D'Antoni said, using slightly different vocabulary to express himself.
If that's all it takes to get D'Antoni going these days, he may not react well to what he hears from the Garden faithful tonight.
Question: How do you think the Garden crowd will react to D'Antoni tonight?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
4dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann