The Knicks need to go 4-0 to finish the season, coupled with a 1-3 stretch by the Hawks if they want to make the playoffs as the eight seed in the Eastern Conference. But in a season rife with disappointment and discord within the team as they plummeted from mid-tier playoff contender to also-ran, coach Mike Woodson has been — perhaps justifiably — on the hot seat as the feasibility of a playoff series drifts closer to an impossibility. Following the Phil Jackson hire as New York’s head of basketball operations, the Zen Master has largely remained mum about Woodson’s job performance, which most likely means only a miracle will save Woodson’s job.
You’d think the head of basketball operations would have some advice, especially when he’s a former coach with 11 championship rings and two more with the team as a player. But Jackson hasn’t crowded Woodson’s style at all, preferring to let it all play out as if he were a fly on the wall. Woody summed it up with his usual candor; he knows he’s powerless to stop the oncoming pink slip. Via the New York Post:
“I’m sure Phil is just — I gather he’s kind of staying out of the way and letting me do my thing in terms of trying to get this team in the playoffs,” Woodson said. “That’s OK. I’m sure when the time comes we’ll have a chance to sit down and talk and see where we are. But first things first. We’re in the playoff race trying to get this eighth spot. That’s where everybody’s focus should be.”
“He’s here conducting business, meeting with scouts and Steve, doing things he’s supposed to be doing,” Woodson said. “And he’s letting me coach. That’s all you can ask at this point. At the end of the day, we’re trying to get this team in the playoffs. And I’m sure when that time comes for Phil and I to talk, we’ll talk.”
Phil and Woodson will definitely talk. The Knicks only opened a dialogue with Jackson because they were looking to hire him as a coaching replacement for Woody. In fact, before Jackson was brought in, the Knicks also reached out to Kentucky coach and subject of frequent rumors he’s jumping to the NBA, John Calipari. By way of ESPN New York:
Back in February, Calipari was on the short list of names that the Knicks were expected to chase to replace Mike Woodson.
In January, the Knicks, via a third party, reached out to Calipari to gauge his interest in coaching the Knicks next season, a league source familiar with the scenario told ESPN New York.
At the time, Calipari was under heavy fire because Kentucky was underperforming.
The league source says Calipari was intrigued by the possibility of coaching Carmelo Anthony. Both Anthony and Calipari, it should be noted, are represented by Creative Artists Agency.
The conversations never went any further than a feeling out by a third party. In other words, nothing serious.
The fact New York was looking for a new coach earlier this year isn’t exactly a revelation, but odds are strong the Knicks will miss the playoffs over the next week. In an attempt to re-sign Carmelo Anthony — barring interference with that plan from Jackson, a provocative move we won’t put past him — they might need to ditch the coach, even if they wanted to keep him. If ‘Melo says he goes, he goes.
Barring that ultimatum, which we doubt (they’re both CAA men), someone has to take the blame for this disappointing season after preseason expectations were set so high by owner James Dolan, who said they should compete for a title this year. It certainly won’t be Dolan that shoulders the burden for falling so short, and they’re trying to bring Anthony back. The next guy on the hierarchy of blame falls to the slumped shoulders of Woodson.
The majority of Knicks fans will rejoice when it happens, and the goateed former coach of the Hawks who earned such rave reviews by playing small ball last year during the first playoff series win since Jeff Van Gundy hugging Alonzo Mourning’s ankle, isn’t just on the hot seat, he’s sitting in an inferno and the flames are licking his ankles.
Does Woodson get asked to resign the day the Knicks are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs?
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