Mike Woodson has a reputation as a good coach around the NBA.
He was a solid head coach in Atlanta where he took over a team that won 13 games in his first season in 2004-05, but he was able to turn around the Hawks and had them making three straight playoff appearances by the time he was fired in 2009-10. Atlanta decided he wasn’t capable of taking them any farther and decided to let him go on May 17, 2010, after the Hawks lost to Orlando in the second round of the playoffs. It was the second straight year they had lost in the second round.
However, Woodson didn’t stay unemployed for very long. He missed out on the Detroit Pistons head coaching position when the team hired Lawrence Frank, but he was hired on Aug. 29, 2011, by the New York Knicks primarily as a defensive coach.
The Knicks needed a coach who would hold the players accountable. The Knicks players had been reportedly tuning out Mike D’Antoni and he had no choice but to resign. He saw the writing on the wall in Gotham.
The Knicks have now won eight of their last nine games with Woodson as the head coach. Sandwiched in there was a lazy loss to the Raptors, but in this shortened 66-game season, those will happen. In the nine games since Woodson has taken over, N.Y. has allowed 79 points four times and is allowing just 84 points per game. On Monday, they allowed just 80 points to the Bucks, who are led by the dynamic backcourt of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings. And on Wednesday, they pulled off a huge win when they beat Orlando, 108-86. The Knicks job got a little harder with Amare Stoudemire sidelined indefinitely with a bulging disk.
The Knicks had a winning streak earlier in the season with Amare and Carmelo Anthony out when Linsanity took off. Melo had 28 points and 12 rebounds in the game against Milwaukee. He also had 26 points and five assists against the Magic. Maybe, he will finally realize his potential as a leader and take charge of this team. Other players will need to step up and perform under pressure, but with a coach who is preaching defense, this just might have a chance at working. Iman Shumpert had an excellent game against Orlando with 25 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Steve Novak also continued his breakout season with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
The players are responding to Woodson in a positive way and they are just 2.5 games out of first place in the Atlantic Division. The Sixers have nine of their last 11 games on the road and the Celtics have a killer schedule to close out the regular season with games against Miami, Chicago, San Antonio, Indiana, Orlando, and Atlanta. Coaching changes are always awkward in the middle of the season, but this move might be just the move the Knicks needed to make. And so far, the players certainly have shown a passion and fire they lacked under the other Mike.
Darren Jacks is a contributor to OneManFastBreak.net. Send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.