Mike Woodson will now be a distant memory to Knicks fans as he was fired earlier this week along with his entire coaching staff. The move didn’t come as a huge surprise considering how the team played this year compared to last season, when New York was able to capture the Atlantic Division title. Woodson helped bring some credibility back to the Big Apple. Unfortunately, that credibility wasn’t able to be maintained even though the Knicks brought back their entire starting lineup. The main goal of Woodson and his staff coming into the year was to make a deep run in the postseason and contend for a title; after all they were trying to convince their franchise player to sign a max extension to stay in New York.
So what does owner James Dolan do to try and entice Carmelo Anthony to stay since the playoffs weren’t in the cards this year? He goes out and hires the biggest name he can find to be the President of the team. He signed the living legend Phil Jackson to a 5 year/$60 million contract to try and turn this franchise back around. Money is no option when it comes to the Knicks and the terms of the contract made it a Godfather deal that the Zen Master couldn’t turn down. He will stay living in Los Angeles and Montana during the tenure of the agreement. He’ll frequently be in New York but it seems clear that not having to constantly be in the office was part of the deal. The 11-time NBA champion coach turns 69 this upcoming fall. It sounds like a part time job that pays $60 million to me. James Dolan has to be the best boss to work for from a check writing perspective (cut to Amar’e uncontrollably smiling).
After Jackson was named as the team President, rumors began to swirl as to whether or not he was going to bring in his own handpicked coach to replace Woodson. The answer became clear on Monday. The current frontrunner for the position is his former point guard and longtime friend Steve Kerr. He’s the ideal candidate for the job since Phil would like to implement his famous triangle offense and Kerr thrived in Chicago under the very same system. This decision may already have been made behind closed doors during the negotiation process with Jackson. Although one thing that has to really be considered is the fact that Kerr has no prior coaching experience at any level.
Phil needs to evaluate whether Kerr would be put in the right situation under the brightest lights in the NBA. As a player, Kerr never shied away from the big moment but coaching in New York at Madison Square Garden is an entirely different animal. He also wouldn’t be inheriting an envious roster for a rookie head coach. Phil was able to take on two different teams that were already well developed when he took over in Chicago and Los Angeles.
Here is a breakdown of those two teams in Jackson’s first year as head coach:
1989-1990 Chicago Bulls (55-27) Lost Eastern Conference Finals
Notes: Jordan averaged 33 ppg, Pippen was in his third year and was starting to come into his own.
Previous Season: 47-35 (lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to Detroit in 7 games)
1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers (67-15) Won 2000 NBA Championship
Notes: Shaq’s most dominant season-won MVP and Finals MVP, Kobe developed into a star.
Previous Season: 31-19 (lost in Western Conference Semifinals to San Antonio)
Pretty good teams already right? The building blocks for championship runs were clearly already in place for Jackson’s previous two takeovers. But there isn’t a Jordan-Pippen or Kobe-Shaq combo currently in place in New York. Their only effective combo this past season was Raymond Felton and Dunkin’ Donuts. This Knicks roster doesn’t even compare to the previous teams I’ve mentioned (unless you ask Amar’e, who said they have the best team on paper in the NBA).
2014-2015 New York Knicks (Based on current contracts)
*Denotes that the player has an opt-out for this upcoming season
Notes: Carmelo hasn’t committed to stay with the Knicks and wants to test free agency this summer. Amar’e is owed $23 million next season. If Carmelo stays, then they don’t have any room to sign any valuable free agents.
Previous Season: 37-45 (Missed Playoffs)
Also this was probably the most memorable moment of the Knicks season…
The bottom line is that Jackson has a lot of cleaning up to do if he wants to make this team into a winner right away. Unfortunately, the cleaning process is likely unable to happen until next summer when Bargnani, Stoudemire, and Chandler come off of the books. Patience is the key in New York this offseason, which should be no problem now that Phil is leading the way. But patience may be something that Melo is running thin on. The situation in New York could turn into all out panic if Anthony decides to take his talents elsewhere.
There are so many questions that remain unanswered when it comes to the Knicks: Who’s the next head coach? Would Kerr be able to handle the pressure? Will Carmelo stay with the team? Does J.R. Smith still own that $450,000 armored truck that he bought last summer? All these answers and more are sure to come in the next couple of weeks.
This offseason has the potential to be really interesting in New York, whether it turns out to be a good kind of interesting or a disastrous kind will be a major storyline throughout the whole summer. Drama is always a part of the city that never sleeps and Phil may be hard-pressed to find himself some sleep amongst the crazy train that is the New York Knicks.