One day after making a plea for his job and why he’s the right man to coach the Knicks, Mike Woodson wasn’t made available to talk about a failed season one last time on Thursday.
In fact, Amar’e Stoudemire said he hadn’t seen Woodson on Thursday at the team facility. Stoudemire sat down for an exit interview with Phil Jackson and Steve Mills and discussed what needed to change with the Knicks. But no Woodson.
Typically, head coaches talk to reporters and players on the last day of the season to explain what went right or wrong and what lies ahead for the team and what improvements need to be made.
Of course, how can Woodson talk about what the team needs to do moving forward when he might not be a part of the future plan? Woodson’s fate was likely sealed much earlier this season when the Knicks repeatedly couldn’t get out of their own way.
Woodson deserves some credit for the Knicks fighting at the end -- albeit too little too late -- to make one final playoff run. But it’s time for a change.
Jackson may not be able to do much in terms of seriously upgrading the roster this coming season due to the Knicks’ limited cap flexibility. But one difference-making move he can make is choosing the right head coach.
If the core of the Knicks’ roster remains the same -- provided Carmelo Anthony re-signs -- then the one game-changing move he can make between this awful season and next season is the coach.
Picking the right coach, one who can motivate this team with a fresh message, one who can make the type of adjustments that Anthony and Tyson Chandler wanted earlier in the season, one who can command the attention of veteran players could be the difference in the Knicks returning to the playoffs.
Jackson wants the Knicks to play system basketball -- in other words, triangle basketball. The Knicks already have the best coaching candidate available on the planet but Jackson says he’s not interested in a return to the bench.
There are plenty of guys from Jackson’s triangle tree who could do the job such as Steve Kerr, Brian Shaw (if he were to become free), Kurt Rambis, Derek Fisher, Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright and Frank Hamblen among others.
Kerr and Fisher have yet to coach. But look at how Jason Kidd is doing without prior NBA coaching experience and he’s been doing it without a Phil Jackson to guide him along as an executive.
If Kerr were to be selected by Jackson to coach the Knicks, he would have Jackson’s full support and wisdom. Jackson would do everything in his power to make sure Kerr succeeds.
Core players like Anthony, Stoudemire and Chandler can’t talk enough about their respect for Jackson. So they should in turn respect whomever Jackson hand picks to install the identity he wants for the team.
The new Jackson disciple in charge also could be inheriting a situation that might not be as bleak as some think. If Jackson re-signs Melo, the new coach will have a top-10 player who averaged 27.4 points and 8.1 rebounds this season.
That coach also could also take over a roster with presumably three key players in contract years. Stoudemire, Chandler and Andrea Bargnani all will be motivated to earn a new pay day even if it’s elsewhere.
If Jackson adds a few more veterans to replace the leadership they lost from the 54-win team a season ago, the Knicks could easily be a playoff team again.
When you look back on this debacle of a season, the Knicks missed the postseason by two games to Atlanta. There are a plethora of reasons why the Knicks didn’t make the playoffs. One of them is coaching.
For whatever reason, there were times when Woodson was unable to motivate his team to play better. Heck, there were times when he couldn’t inspire them to show up for a matinee tipoff at the Garden.
Stoudemire said players didn’t always buy into Woodson’s coaching and said next season the remaining players need to be more professional about accepting the coach’s game plan.
“Coach Woodson put together a game plan on both ends of the basketball court,” Stoudemire said. “And there were times that we didn’t totally buy into it.”
Chandler intimated the Knicks have bigger changes to make.
“I think we all have to be on the same page,” Chandler said on Thursday. “I think that’s the biggest key. A winning culture. Got to establish a winning culture, if not, you allow history to repeat itself.”
That’s where Phil comes in. Jim Dolan is paying the Zen Master a fortune to lay down a winning foundation starting now.
A critical ingredient to a winning culture is the head coach. Hiring the right coach could seal the deal with Melo. And it could be the Knicks’ only way of truly improving the team for next season.