The man who replaces Mike Woodson will be the ninth Knicks coach in this still-young century. They were, in order: Jeff Van Gundy, Don Chaney, Herb Williams (the first of his two stints in Red Holzman’s old job), Lenny Wilkens, Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas and Mike D’Antoni.
“I want to be clear,” said the owner, James Dolan. “I believe in our talent. I believe in their commitment. … I believe that we have the talent and the character to succeed.”
Now I want to be clear. As it applies to the next guy who takes this job: You are a fool.
However lucrative the deal, whatever your price, your pride comes cheap.
It’s worth mentioning that Dolan’s remarks were prepared. He did not take questions before New York played Portland on Wednesday night (by the way, only a team as immature as the Knicks could snap a six-game losing streak, win by 42 and still manage to embarrass themselves by running up the score).
Thus, Dolan kept his own streak alive. March 12 — a date capably noted by The New York Times’ Howard Beck — marked the fifth anniversary of his last interview, occasioned by a contract extension for Isiah Thomas.
“I think we have a great future,” remarked Dolan. “We’ve clearly improved.”
The Knicks were then six games under .500. They closed out that season with their newly extended coach by losing 15 of their last 19.
Thomas is gone, at least in theory, and his prized acquisitions for that team — Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry — are bad memories.
Still, despite all the resources that go with owning Madison Square Garden and playing in New York, the Knicks remain a perennial mess. The roster changes. The front office changes. But there’s one constant: Dolan.
In keeping with Knicks’ tradition, the cause and the symptom are confused.
The problem isn’t Carmelo Anthony.
It’s the Carmelo Anthony trade.
And who made that deal?
Who made that deal over the objections of his then-general manager, Donnie Walsh, and then his then-coach, D’Antoni (who finally realized late Wednesday morning that some things you just shouldn’t eat, no matter what you get paid)?
The same rich kid who doesn’t answer questions, that’s who.
I’m not arguing that D’Antoni was a championship coach. I’m just saying it took Dolan to turn him into a sympathetic figure.
Most New Yorkers I know were raised to believe that Walter O’Malley was a kind of anti-Christ. Recent scholarship suggests that his “crime” — moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1957 — owed less to greed than to the municipal power broker Robert Moses.
Unfortunately for Dolan’s legacy, he has no Robert Moses. There is no excuse. He looks like the very worst owner in New York sports history, a formidable accomplishment if you consider former Jets owner Leon Hess’ body of work and the last few years of Fred Wilpon, the former Bernie Madoff pal who, for reasons difficult to fathom, still owns the Mets.
But why stop there? Dolan is the worst owner in sports.
Frank McCourt? At least his Dodgers teams went to the postseason in four of his eight seasons as owner.
Dan Snyder? Irrational, perhaps. Thin-skinned, arrogant, sure. But is Vinny Cerrato a greater offense than Isiah Thomas? Only if you’re a Redskins fan. Plus, a five-year plus moratorium on interviews? Nah.
Donald Sterling? His record of underachievement spans decades. Still, none of his Clippers teams have done what the Knicks have done this season.
No team has squandered so much good will so quickly as these Knicks. A month ago, they were coming off a six-game winning streak. Euphoria had a name: Linsanity. The Knicks were the best story in sports.
But when D’Antoni resigned on Wednesday, they were riding a six-game losing streak. They’d lost eight of their last 10.
What changed? Carmelo Anthony came back from an injury. That’s it. But again, he’s the symptom, not the cause.
Anthony’s liabilities had all been explained to the owner. Anthony doesn’t play defense. Anthony doesn’t move without the ball. He doesn’t fit in.
Dolan, basketball genius, made the deal anyway. And guess what? Anthony doesn’t play defense, doesn’t move without the ball and doesn’t fit in.
Remember playing three-on-three in the park? Anthony is the kid who circles back to get the ball from the kid who’s taking it out. That’s what he knows how to do.
Then again, that’s more than Dolan knows.
“We had a wonderful relationship,” Anthony said of D’Antoni after the game. “A great relationship.”
Whoever you are, you’ve been warned. The next guy to coach the Knicks is a fool.