Coach D’Antoni resigns as Knicks skid
Maybe there’s a big-name coach out there who can bring out the
best in Carmelo Anthony and the New York Knicks.
Mike D’Antoni decided Wednesday he wasn’t that guy. And so, he
resigned, surprising even his bosses.
”It wasn’t just Carmelo,” interim general manager Glen
Grunwald said. ”I think it was our whole team was not playing up
to where we thought they could be and I know Mike was as frustrated
as anyone about that and that’s what led him to that decision, that
maybe there needs to be a new approach and look at it.”
Assistant Mike Woodson was promoted to interim head coach and
led the Knicks to a 121-79 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers
at Madison Square Garden.
”I think everyone for the most part was obviously very
emotional when we came, but we sat down and said, `Look, this is
where we want to go. This is how we feel like we need to get
there,”’ Jeremy Lin said. ”So we came out with more energy than
we have in a long time.”
The Knicks’ brief resurgence in a wave of Linsanity last month
had been replaced by a six-game losing streak that dropped the
Knicks into a tie for the eighth and final playoff spot in the
Eastern Conference, along of speculation of friction between
D’Antoni and his All-Star forward.
Anthony denied it and said there was no ”bad blood” between
himself and the coach.
”As far as that, it is what it is when it comes that,” Anthony
said. ”That’s something I can’t control as far as the blame being
put on me. I don’t sit here and complain about that.
D’Antoni ran the Knicks through their morning shootaround, but
not before stopping into Grunwald’s office at the Knicks’ training
center and telling him and fellow executive Allan Houston of his
Grunwald called MSG chairman James Dolan, who went up to the
Westchester training center for what he called a ”very honest”
conversation with the D’Antoni. Dolan later said the parting was
”He clearly felt it was best for the organization if he were
not to continue as coach of the team. He did offer to stay,” Dolan
said during a press conference. ”After a long discussion, we did
agree it was best for the organization to have new voice moving
Dolan made it clear that he believes in the players and still
expects a playoff berth. D’Antoni said before the season that the
Knicks should be a contender, but they haven’t looked like one in
the previous 10 games – all since Anthony returned from a groin
New York was just 2-8 in that span, and D’Antoni wasn’t the only
one who couldn’t figure out why the Knicks couldn’t win with their
”It’s hard to explain why we have struggled and I don’t really
don’t want to get too deep on that,” Woodson said. ”I think
what’s more important is that we move forward.”
A message was left with D’Antoni seeking comment.
He seemed upbeat after the morning practice and gave no
indication of his plans. Asked the last thing he said to players,
rookie Iman Shumpert said: ”Well, this morning it was, `See you
tonight.’ So like I said, it’s a shock to us.”
Anthony said after the shootaround he supported the coach ”100
percent,” denying a New York Post report that he would like a
trade before Thursday’s deadline.
D’Antoni acknowledged the media frenzy around the sinking club
but believed the Knicks would handle it.
”You battle against it. I think we’re cohesive enough to battle
through this, and we expect to do that,” he said.
His departure comes less than a month after he seemed
rejuvenated by the emergence of Lin, the undrafted point guard from
Harvard who came off the end of the bench and proved to be the
player who could properly run his offensive system.
But that was short-lived. Lin has still played well, but the
defensive was struggling and D’Antoni said the team wasn’t giving a
consistent effort after a home loss to Philadelphia on Sunday.
Woodson, the former Atlanta Hawks coach who was hired this
summer, is a longtime friend of Grunwald and former Knicks coach
Isiah Thomas. Dolan said Woodson understood he would be evaluated
at the end of the season.
Perhaps a call will go out to Phil Jackson or John Calipari. The
latter, preparing his top-seeded Wildcats for the NCAA tournament,
wrote on Twitter that he was committed to Kentucky and reaffirmed
that commitment at a press conference in Louisville.
”Every job that’s open, including high school jobs and AAU
jobs, my name is mentioned,” he said. ”But I just wanted to say I
have a great job. The best in this profession.”
Never able to duplicate his success in Phoenix, D’Antoni was
headed to his third losing season since signing a $24 million,
four-year contract in 2008 that made him one of the NBA’s
highest-paid coaches. He never won a playoff game in New York,
where the Knicks were focused on the future during his first two
years and made numerous changes that didn’t give him much of a
chance to compete.
But they spent big this season, bringing in Tyson Chandler to
play between Anthony and Amare Stoudemire, while adding players
such as Baron Davis and JR Smith during the season.
New York returned to the playoffs last season for the first time
since 2004 but lost to the Boston Celtics in the first round. In
the offseason, the Knicks radically changed the team, waiving point
guard Chauncey Billups through the amnesty clause to free up salary
cap space to sign Chandler. They sputtered through January while
trying three point guards to replace him.
D’Antoni finally turned to Lin on Feb. 4 and the Knicks took
off, winning seven games in a row and looking like a threat to the
top teams in the East. But it all came to a halt when Anthony
returned, reinforcing the notion that his desire to get the ball in
isolation didn’t fit in D’Antoni’s offense that focused on
pick-and-rolls and quick ball movement.
D’Antoni averaged 58 wins in four full seasons in Phoenix before
he was hired to replace Isiah Thomas on May 13, 2008, walking right
into a two-year rebuilding plan with an eye toward clearing salary
cap space for the summer of 2010.
D’Antoni always supported the plan, even though it came at the
cost of his won-loss record. He was 267-172 when he arrived in New
York but went 121-167 with the Knicks. Even Grunwald said he
thought it had been a ”rough go” of it for D’Antoni.
”We had a lot of changes, and a short season and all that stuff
about the lockout, so it was a tough, tough thing to have a coach
deal with all that over the course of four years,” Grunwald
Assistant coaches Dan D’Antoni, Mike’s brother, and Phil Weber
New York finished in the top 10 in scoring in each of D’Antoni’s
first three seasons while racking up the three highest 3-pointer
totals in team history. But his offense-first style was never a
natural fit in New York, where fans craved the hard-nosed,
defense-first approach of the 1990s teams of Patrick Ewing, Charles
Oakley, Anthony Mason and John Starks. Worse for D’Antoni, he lost
his biggest backer in the front office when team president Donnie
Walsh opted not to return after last season.
D’Antoni became a coaching star in Phoenix, reaching two Western
Conference finals. He won a Coach of the Year award and was an
assistant coach to Mike Krzyzewski with the U.S. national team.
He seemed to have the Knicks on the rise last season after
landing Stoudemire. But the Knicks didn’t stop there, trading four
of their top six players to acquire Anthony from Denver last
February before the trade deadline.
The high price, paid when Dolan reportedly overruled Walsh, put
enormous pressure on D’Antoni and Anthony to make it work, and they
never really could. Anthony was shooting a career-low 40 percent
and at times his frustration was evident. It was after Monday’s
loss in Chicago.
Woodson, who favors the isolation offense that Anthony has
thrived in, said there would be some changes, but didn’t elaborate.
Dolan expects them to pay off.
”The season is not over and this team can still be the team
that our fans hope it can be,” he said.
AP Sports Writer Colin Fly in Louisville, Ky., contributed to