Larry Brown, Isiah Thomas, Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens, Mike D’Antoni and now it will likely be Mike Woodson on the list of New York Knicks head coaches who fail to make it past year three with the club. Whether or not Woodson is to blame here isn’t the point. The real blame is on the owner, James L. Dolan.
With the exception of Thomas, who is one of the best point guards in the history of the game, all five of these coaches were great signings from a resume point of view. Brown and Wilkens have been elected in to the NBA Hall of Fame as coaches. D’Antoni revolutionized coaching in the earlier 2000s with the Phoenix Suns and was one of the most sought-after coaches in the game before the Knicks snagged him. And Woodson became known as a defensive guru coach with the Atlanta Hawks, leading the team to consecutive playoff appearances despite an average roster.
The problem is that Dolan isn’t aware of how an NBA franchise goes from the laughingstock of the NBA to a formidable team worthy of contending for a championship. He isn’t aware of how to spend the money of the NBA’s most profitable franchise in a way that will bring the title back to Madison Square Garden for the first time since 1973. It takes time. There’s a transition. You cannot go from worst to first in one season. Dolan, who is the founding member of the band JD & The Straight Shots, clearly appreciates music and should listen to more of The Beatles — particularly the song, “Can’t Buy Me Love.”
Basketball is a five-man team game. This isn’t baseball, and the late George Steinbrenner approach of fielding the most expensive players over at Yankee Stadium just wont work on an NBA court. Dolan needs to look at other clubs like the Oklahoma City Thunder, who were built in just a handful of seasons through draft picks and several strategic trades. They’ve also allowed head Coach Scott Brooks to build with the team since they were in Seattle. Now they’re considered the best team in the West and the Miami Heat’s biggest competition.
Mike Woodson has no control over the Knicks; he never has. Bringing in Jeff Van Gundy, or his brother Stan or even Phil Jackson will make little difference. The Knicks are a team full of individual personalities, not cogs to a functioning machine. They can’t be fixed as currently assembled; they must be broken up. And unfortunately, that does mean starting at the top with relieving Woodson of his duties.