For the last 22 games, Mike Woodson has been a godsend to New York.
For once, everyone is excited about Knicks basketball and is talking about the goings on the court rather than drama off of it. No more bickering coach clashing with management over the direction of the team. No more struggles while high-priced stars are hurt or failing to fit into the scheme. Much like Jeremy Lin seemed to light up Madison Square Garden, Mike Woodson has brought some much needed stability.
The Knicks are in the Playoffs for the second straight year, the franchise’s first back-to-back Playoff berths since 2000 and 2001, and are playing about as well as anybody in the Eastern Conference. New York even still has an outside chance of sneaking past Orlando into the sixth seed and could avoid Miami in the first round. Life has been good in this 16-6 run the Knicks have put together with Mike Woodson at the controls.
Good times last only so briefly in the City that Never Sleeps.
With the likelihood of avoiding Miami pretty slim — if New York trips up once or Orlando wins once, Orlando would wrap up the sixth seed — New York is looking at another first round exit. That is probably not good enough for the never-quite-satisfied New York fans.
Questions have already turned somewhat toward the offseason. At least for the big questions.
The biggest question? Will Mike Woodson return?
It is hard to remember with all the Knicks’ success that Woodson is the team’s interim coach. He was brought on to be New York’s defensive coordinator and fix the team’s defense. He has done that. Now as the head coach, he has revived the team and has them playing at a level that should scare a few of the East’s top contenders — certainly for a few years into the future.
Yet despite the team’s success, New York has made no commitment to Woodson’s future. and knowing the wackiness of New York’s front office, it does not feel like bringing Woodson back is quite the slam dunk it should be. After all, Phil Jackson and John Calipari have already been tied to the job and Knicks fans are always thirsty for something better, even when what they have is pretty good.
Woodson has been fired under similar circumstances before. Atlanta dropped him after three straight Playoff appearances and a 50-win season, a rarity for that franchise in recent history. Woodson certainly is not counting his chickens before they hatch.
That might be why his focus is still on finishing this season and pushing this team to reach higher and higher:
“I want to finish the job,” Woodson said to Al Ianozzone of Newsday on Saturday. “Depending on where this team goes, I want to be the guy who’s in charge running the show and finishing. That might not be in the cards. I don’t know. But I’m not going to sit here and complain about that.”
When asked about it Tuesday, it seems the players have Woodson’s back. That could be the tipping point for Woodson’s eventual return.
No doubt Anthony would support Woodson’s return. Woodson’s pick-and-roll, isolation-heavy offense favors Anthony style of game more than the point guard-dominated play of Mike D’Antoni. Woodson has given Anthony the ball more and more and allows him to do what he does best: score.
In return, Woodson has gotten Anthony and his teammates to keep up their defensive intensity. This all suggests that Woodson has reached his team and gotten them to buy into his system.
Would that work for a full 82 games? Only way to find out, is to try.