New York Knicks enter new era as coach Mike D’Antoni resigns
In this file photo from Feb 20, 2012, New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni (L) watches as superstar forward Carmelo Anthony (R) holds Jeremy Lin’s hand as he leaves the game after fouling out. A poor run of form after All-Star forward Anthony’s return from injury brought the end of D’Antoni’s helm as Knicks coach. New York was on a stunning run led by wonder rookie Lin a month ago when Anthony was sidelined. AP photoMike D’Antoni resigned on March 14 as head coach of the New York Knicks in the midst of a losing skid that has the NBA team battling for a playoff spot.
The Knicks, who were the toast of the NBA last month when unheralded bench player Jeremy Lin inspired a magnificent run, have lost eight of their last 10 games.
“After speaking with Mike this morning, we mutually agreed that it would be best for the organization if he did not continue in his role as coach of the Knicks,” team owner Jim Dolan told a news conference. The announcement came less than 48 hours after the Knicks lost their sixth consecutive game and fell into a tie with the Milwaukee Bucks for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with an 18-24 record.
However, the team responded to D’Antoni’s departure with a big win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
With newly named interim coach Mike Woodson on the bench for his first game since he was promoted from assistant status for the remainder of the season, the Knicks routed the Trail Blazers 121-79.
J.R. Smith led the Knicks with 23 points off the bench -- including seven three-pointers. Steve Novak added 20 and Amare Stoudemire chipped in 17 with eight rebounds.
Carmelo Anthony had 16 points and seven assists, while Lin scored six points with six assists and six turnovers.
“Expectations are high. We knew that coming into this season. I’m going to hold these guys accountable for that,” said Woodson, a former head coach with the Atlanta Hawks. “There will be things changed as we move along.”
D’Antoni, the former Phoenix Suns coach who was named Coach of the Year for the 2004-05 NBA season, was hired by the Knicks in May 2008. He compiled a 121-167 record during his tenure, which included a first-round playoff loss last year.
Knicks General Manager Glen Grunwald said D’Antoni, who did not attend the news conference, poked his head into his office at the team’s practice facility to talk out his decision.
“I was surprised this morning when we came to this decision,” said Grunwald. “Now we have to move forward. We have 24 games left and we have to attack that on a game by game basis and do everything we can to get this team to the playoffs.”
After a poor start to the current NBA campaign, the Knicks revived their playoff aspirations when D’Antoni inserted Lin at point guard, sparking a seven-game win streak to reach 15-15.
The surge came without All-Star Anthony, who was out with injury, and Stoudemire, who was absent due to a death in his family.
The free-flowing attack that marked the winning streak was never the same since the return of Stoudemire and Anthony, who prefers handling the ball to create his scoring opportunities.
The Knicks had gone 6-1 with Anthony sidelined and Lin leading the way. With Wednesday’s victory, they are 3-8 with Anthony back.
He admitted he was frustrated by being blamed for the Knicks’ recent woes. “It gets frustrating at times to hear some of the stuff being said about me,” Anthony said. “At the end of the day what can I do about it? It’s a basketball game.”
Lin, waived by two teams before he was picked up by the Knicks, admitted he found the sudden departure of the coach who gave him his big NBA break “emotional”.
“What he did for my career, I’m not going to forget what he did for me personally,” Lin added. “It’s very emotional. I’m sad to see him go and I owe a lot to him.”
Despite the upheaval, Woodson said the Knicks’ goal remains the same -- a playoff campaign.
“Expectations are high. That’s how it should be. I expressed that to the guys. We still have a great opportunity to do something special in New York. I’m going to hold these guys accountable for that.”