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Knicks Hire Mike Woodson As Assistant Coach; D’Antoni Hot Seat Watch In Full Effect

Mike Woodson (photo courtesy of

The 443 members of the “Fire Mike D’Antoni” Facebook Community will be pleased to learn that the New York Knicks hired former head coach of the Atlanta Hawks Mike Woodson as an assistant coach Monday. The hiring of an assistant coach in the NBA does not usually promise major reprucussions. However, the Knicks’ addition of Woodson could greatly improve the Knicks’ woeful defense (the Knicks were 22nd in defensive efficiency and 28th in points allowed in the 2010-’11 season). Moreover, if the Knicks don’t show market improvements in the upcoming season, current Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni – who is currently under a one-year contract with the Knicks – may find himself out of a job before season’s end, with Woodson likely to fill in at least for the interim.

One Fine (Assistant) Coach

Woodson’s reputation as an NBA coach precedes him. As an assistant coach to Larry Brown on the Detroit Pistons during their championship 2003-2004 season, Woodson was known for optimizing individual players’ capabilities on defense. This was particularly the case with then Pistons point guard Chauncey Billups (now PG for the Knicks), whose perimeter defense greatly improved under the guidance of Brown and Woodson. Then, as the Hawks’ head coach over the next six years, Woodson carried over from the Pistons his reputation as a strong defensive coach. While both Woodson’s 2008 and 2009 Hawks teams (47 and 53 regular season wins, respectively, and two Eastern Conference semi-finals appearances) were undersized and in the bottom half of the league in rebounding, the team was near top third in overall defense both those years. One central reason for Hawks’ overall defensive success despite its mediocre rebounding  is Woodson’s emphasis on tenacious, grinding man-on-man defense – the Hawks ranked in the top third or higher in the league in opponent’s field goal percentage, three pointers allowed, free throws allowed, steals, and blocked shots. More evidence that Woodson gets the most from his players on the defensive end.

Woodson was eventually fired by the Hawks, not due to poor overall coaching, but because he couldn’t get the Hawks to “the next level.” Both his 2008 and 2009 Hawks teams suffered lopsided Eastern Conference semi-final losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic, respectively. The Cavaliers and Magic were both elite NBA teams at the time, boasting mega-super star players Lebron James and Dwight Howard; two players the Hawks had no answer against.  In any event, usually in these kind of situations, the head coach is the go-to scapegoat.

Two Mikes Too Many?

Woodson’s resume bodes well for a resurrection in the New York Knicks’ team defense. The Knicks, while also an undersized team, have plenty of untapped potential in other defensive areas. Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony may not be 7′ tall, but they have the athleticism and the length (both have 7′ wingspans) to consistently force poor shot attempts. Guards Chauncey Billups and Toney Douglas both have the potential to play a grinding half-court perimeter game. The bigger question as to Woodson’s effectiveness will probably be whether the reputedly stubborn D’Antoni can find an optimal blend of his high-octane offense with Woodson’s defensive orientated philosophy, which will demand a slower game pace on the floor. If D’Antoni can adapt Woodson’s philosophy into his system, Knicks fans can expect to see a marked improvement this season. Or, at the very least, a few less opposing three-point barrages akin to a Varsity high school contest. On the other hand, if the current head coach is not up to the task over the first couple of months of this season, his new assistant coach will be ready to take over the reigns.

About Argun M. Ulgen

When I was young, my dad and I used to watch a lot of MSG midnight replays of Knicks basketball after he came home from work. One night at 1am we grilled steaks and watched the Knicks somehow hold onto a 4th quarter lead. Sometime later, I started to fall in love with reading all sorts of literature, including sports books.The dawning of this romance came soon after my deep relationships with HBO reruns of its fine series programming, not to mention the Encore channel's more than generous replays of Scarface, came to a close. I write, but only when I don't feel like being idle. Feel free to AIM me at YoProtein (that's "Yo, Protein!") with comments or suggestions about my work. I more than welcome feedback.

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3 comments for “Knicks Hire Mike Woodson As Assistant Coach; D’Antoni Hot Seat Watch In Full Effect”

  1. New Post: Knicks Hire Mike Woodson As Assistant Coach; D’Antoni Hot Seat Watch In Full Effect

    Posted by Sports of New York | August 30, 2011, 11:07 pm
  2. RT @TopsyRT: Knicks Hire Mike Woodson As Assistant Coach; D'Antoni Hot Seat Watch In Full Effect

    Posted by Argun | August 30, 2011, 11:13 pm
  3. […] expressed his excitement in the Knicks’ recent hiring of Mike Woodson. Woodson figures to work alongside Head Coach Mike D’Antoni this year as his primary assistant. […]

    Posted by Amar’e Stoudemire Talks Knicks Title, But is it Too Soon? | Sports of New York | September 16, 2011, 10:47 am

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