(Long Island, N.Y.) Sometimes you can never win, regardless of how much patience and team spirit is shown. Take Mike D’Antoni, for example. The former head coach of the New York Knicks should have finally been enjoying some success after a few trying seasons struggling with a roster being totally rebuilt. But the centerpiece of that rebuilding program ended up being the cause of his demise.
When Carmelo Anthony was acquired from Denver last year, he was being looked at as the type of superstar player the organization had lacked since the final days of the Patrick Ewing era. But his game is better suited for an isolation strategy and not the pick and roll system that D’Antoni is married to, and it was only a matter of time before one of them had to go.
In the business that is major league sports, it’s usually the coach and not the player who finds themselves on the outside looking in, and this was certainly going to be the case here. D’Antoni’s offensive scheme and lack of a defensive one was never totally accepted at Madison Square Garden from the Knick faithful, who still speak passionately about the staunch defenses employed here during the 1990s.
Yes, D’Antoni played the good soldier and was handed a mess, courtesy of Isiah Thomas, four years ago. He did the best he could while the entire roster was paired down and played hardball with Stephon Marbury and Eddy Curry, the two biggest failures and epitome of those long years. But he was either unwilling or unable to do the same to Anthony when a little tough love may have salvaged his job for the time being.
He even went as far as admitting that he is a non-confrontation person, so it was no surprise that D’Antoni laid off Anthony when the forward needed to be leaned on. It became apparent that the two were not meant to be together, so D’Antoni made the difficult decision for himself and the organization an easier one.
“After speaking with Mike (last Wednesday), we mutually agreed that it would be best for the organization if he did not continue his role as coach of the New York Knicks,” Madison Square Garden executive chairman Jim Dolan said. “Mike is a class act and true professional and we have appreciated his honesty, commitment and years of service to the organization.”
This will not be the last head coaching job that D’Antoni gets and he may have been trying to salvage what he felt was going to end with his firing at the end of the season. He did get the Knicks to the playoffs a year ago and anything but a return would have been viewed as a monumental failure. The Knicks are on the fringe right now in the Eastern Conference and will need to turn it on the last month of the regular season to get in again. Interim head coach Mike Woodson has them playing well and the team snapped a six-game losing streak under D’Antoni by reeling off four straight wins since the change was made.
Sometimes you just can’t win, even when you do.