(Long Island, N.Y.) Coming from the run and gun Western Conference, Mike D’Antoni was not on anyone’s short list to be a master of defense once he came to New York. But the former Phoenix Suns head coach has seemed to practically ignore that aspect of the game since he has been on the Knicks bench.
His style of play hasn’t exactly been endured at Madison Square Garden, where the fans are still longing for the days of Pat Riley’s crew from the mid 1990s. The banging and bruising bunch was the antithesis of a D’Antoni-coached team and their form of basketball actually brought on the hand check rule.
However he is critiqued, D’Antoni does win and led the Knicks back to the playoffs last season. So instead of making a big change, the organization made a small but important move by hiring Mike Woodson as one of D’Antoni’s assistant coaches. The former Hawks head coach was originally drafted by the Knicks with the 12th overall pick out of Indiana University in 1980 and is well respected throughout the NBA.
“I consider Mike D’Antoni to be one of the top coaches in our game and I am thankful for this opportunity,” Woodson said. “I’m excited to rejoin this great franchise where my professional career started and will work to build off of the success they had here last season.”
Known as a coach who preaches defense, Woodson guided Atlanta the past six seasons, including three consecutive postseason appearances for a franchise that had been dormant for a long time. His coaching career began in 1996 as an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks, and Woodson has also been on the staffs of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Philadelphia 76ers and Detroit Pistons, including their championship 2003-04 campaign.
For D’Antoni, he is viewing this as a positive influence to a team ready to turn the corner and make a deeper push into the postseason. “I was extremely encouraged after meeting with Mike (Woodson) that he would be a great addition to our coaching staff and we are pleased to welcome him back to New York,” the Knicks coach commented. “Mike brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our team and we are confident that he will help us as we continue towards our goal of building a championship team.”
And that help will certainly come on the other side of the hardwood. The Knicks have some potent offensive weapons in A’Mare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, but have struggled keeping teams from scoring at ease against them. Even though they lack a quality big man clogging up the middle, the Knicks can use what they already have on their roster to the best of their abilities to improve on last year.
Using a simple statistic from the 2010-11 season as an example of what Woodson can bring to the table, the Atlanta Hawks allowed 100 or more points in 34 games. The Knicks, on the other hand, allowed opponents to reach the century mark 58 times, third worst in the league. Only the Golden State Warriors and Minnesota Timberwolves- two teams you do not want to be grouped with – were easier to score against.
That will hopefully not be the case in this coming season. Perhaps D’Antoni may even shake the ‘no defense’ stigma attached to him.