Knicks extend coach Mike Woodson
The New York Knicks liked Mike Woodson so much they never even considered calling Phil Jackson during their coaching search.
So said Knicks GM Glen Grunwald on Friday night, when the team named Woodson their next head coach.
Woodson, who served as interim head coach for the final 24 games of the regular season and the playoffs, signed a multiyear extension on Friday. The Knicks did not disclose terms of the deal, but sources told ESPNNewYork.com's Stephen A. Smith that Woodson's deal includes two guaranteed years and a third-year option, worth approximately $4 million per season.
"I'm very humbled and honored to continue coaching the franchise where I started my NBA career," Woodson, who was drafted by the Knicks in 1980, said in a statement. "Our goal is to build off the success we had at the end of last season and to continue our quest of bringing an NBA championship to Madison Square Garden."
Woodson took over as coach of the Knicks on an interim basis when Mike D'Antoni stepped down March 14. Under Woodson, the Knicks finished the regular season 18-6 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.
He coached the team to a win in Game 4 of its first-round playoff series against the Miami Heat, which snapped the franchise's NBA-record 13-game postseason losing streak.
"Mike took over the team under challenging circumstances and made it clear, starting on Day One, that he was going to hold every player on our roster accountable," Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan said in a statement. "We saw a significant improvement since Mike took over and believe our team will only keep improving under Mike's direction."
When D'Antoni first stepped down, Phil Jackson, the former Knicks player and Bulls and Lakers coach, and Kentucky coach John Calipari were mentioned as potential replacements.
I'm very humbled and honored to continue coaching the franchise where I started my NBA career. Our goal is to build off the success we had at the end of last season and to continue our quest of bringing an NBA championship to Madison Square Garden.” -- Mike Woodson
But there was no indication that the 66-year-old Jackson would come out of retirement and Calipari repeatedly has denied interest in leaving Kentucky. A team source said New York was hesitant to reach out to Jackson because of his age and the hefty contract offer that it likely would take to entice him to take the job.
Grunwald said on a conference call Friday that he never reached out to Jackson or any other coach during the team's search for a new head man.
"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, adding, "We thought he was the right guy for this team at this time. Obviously, there are some great coaches out there that, had we opened up the search, would have been called. Namely Phil Jackson, who was the most successful coach in the NBA history. We felt Woody was our guy and he showed it during the season and in our discussions after the season."
Grunwald said the team never reached out to Jackson because Woodson followed up a strong performance on the bench with a strong interview.
"We told Woody he would get the first crack at the job and he hit it out of the park," Grunwald said.
Woodson is longtime friends with Grunwald. Both played college basketball together at Indiana.
Many believe Woodson's candidacy for the full-time job greatly improved when the Knicks removed the interim tag from Grunwald's title late in the regular season. But Grunwald said at the time that hiring the team's next coach would be an "organizational" decision, not his alone.
"The ability to work successfully with players in the NBA is a key to success and Woody showed that," Grunwald said.
Earlier this month, Woodson split with his agent, Keith Glass.
Glass is the son of Joe Glass, who represented former Knicks coach Larry Brown during his stormy one-season tenure in New York. Brown, who signed a five-year, $50 million deal with the Knicks, reached an $18.5 million settlement with the club after being fired.
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Woodson said on Friday he wanted to "set the record straight" regarding his agent.
"I have no contract with the Glasses. I paid for my services and I elected to move on," Woodson said. "Mr. Dolan had nothing to do with me making this decision. It was Mike Woodson's decision. I had every right to make that decision, to move on if I choose to do that."
Woodson confirmed he hired Terry Prince of CAA to represent him. CAA has several business ties to the Knicks.
Woodson said that, from a "business standpoint," he thought CAA would be the best fit for him. But he said the fact that CAA has business ties to the Knicks didn't factor into his decision.
"Not really," he said. "After my doing my due diligence on their company, I liked what I saw and I took them on. And I'm happy about taking them on. So we'll see where it takes us."
Woodson joined the Knicks on Aug. 29, 2011, hired as an assistant to help improve the team's defense under D'Antoni.
He'd previously coached six seasons in Atlanta, leading the Hawks to the playoffs three times and improving their win total in each year on the job.
Woodson was able to coach Lin for only seven games before the point guard was shut down for the season with a meniscus tear in his left knee. Grunwald made it clear the Knicks intend to give Woodson more opportunities to coach Lin.
"We can keep him if we want him, and we do want to keep him, and I believe that Jeremy had a great experience here," Grunwald said. "I believe he wants to come back."
Both Lin and Landry Fields are restricted free agents, but Grunwald said the team intends to retain both players.
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Stephen A. Smith and Jared Zwerling was used in this report.
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