Coach Mike Woodson and the Knicks
are off to a miserable start. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images Sport)
MSG chairman James Dolan, who deposed Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald without warning in September, has given coach Mike Woodson a public vote of confidence despite a 3-8 start.
In rare media comments, Dolan told the New York Post that Woodson is still the man for the job because of his enduring bond with his players.
"I have a lot of confidence in Woodson, and one thing I can say about Mike is he has the respect of all the players. They all respect him. And he treats them fairly and relatively equally, and that’s part of where the respect emanates from. And those are hard things to get from a coach. When a coach loses a team … that’s when a coach is kind of done.
"I really don’t compare myself with other owners. I’ll bet you I’m more patient than Mikhail [Prokhorov] is of his team. Mostly, I think it does not pay to be impatient, because you destabilize your team. It’s not like the players don’t want to win, it’s not like the owner doesn’t want to win; everybody wants to win, so it’s a question of: Can you get there? With Mike, I think he can get us there. Mostly, I think Carmelo [Anthony] can get us there, and the other players can get us there, they’re going to have to jell and I think Mike can do a lot to get that to happen. Because he has their respect."
Woodson took over as interim coach in March 2012, when Mike D'Antoni abruptly resigned, and was given the job on a permanent basis in May 2012. In September, the Knicks picked up his option for the 2014-15 season.
The discussion of Woodson's job security marks a dramatic shift from last season, when he finished third in the Coach of the Year voting, behind winner George Karl of Denver and Miami's Erik Spoelstra, after leading New York to a 54-win season and its first playoff-series victory since 2000.
Few NBA coaches are ever truly safe, though. As noted last month, the NBA's coaching carousel has been rotating at an ungodly pace: 14 teams entered the season with a different coach than they started with last season. There hasn't been a coaching change yet this season, but rumors have been building around the likes of Woodson, the Wizards' Randy Wittman, the Jazz's Tyrone Corbin and the Nets' Jason Kidd.
ESPNNewYork.com noted that Woodson said in a radio interview this week that he isn't feeling the pressure even though New York has lost five straight home games during an underwhelming opening month.
"I'm going to continue to coach this team, and eventually I'm going to get us over this hump and get us on the winning track," Woodson said.
Asked whether he's worried about getting fired, Woodson said, "Absolutely not. I'll never feel that way because, again, I'm paid to coach. I'm the Knicks' head coach."
New York's start has been unconditionally abysmal, but what exactly would be solved by dumping Woodson so early? Would a coaching change bring Tyson Chandler back to health? Would it accomplish the impossible by transforming Andrea Bargnani and Amar'e Stoudemire into stoppers? Would it magically fix New York's 32.2 percent three-point shooting? Would it improve J.R. Smith's field-goal percentage and Twitter decision-making? Would it find a way to make Chris Smith disappear?
The answers: No. Definitely not. No. No and no. No.
The process of altering expectations is underway in Gotham. Last year's Knicks had the "We could win the title if absolutely everything breaks right" glow to them. This year's Knicks look far removed from the Eastern Conference's top group, even if Chandler returns and the shooting picks up. That recalibration shouldn't beget change for the sake of change or change that results from panicky impatience. The Knicks look stuck, at least for the time being, and Woodson should remain the guy this season as long as he doesn't "lose the locker room" and the Knicks don't plummet from disappointing to outright embarrassing.