Four off the floor: Key decisions for the summer Decision #1 — Should the Knicks keep D’Antoni?
With one year left on his contract, Mike D’Antoni’s future with the Knicks remains uncertain. While he managed to turn in the Bockers’ first winning season in a decade, the horror of the last ten years have understandably rendered Knick Nation incapable of tapping into a reserve of patience. Because there isn’t one. All indications are that D’Antoni has the backing of his players. The rest of New York? That’s a little more of a mixed bag.
Should the Knicks keep Mike D’Antoni, or try and find another coach?
Mike Kurylo: Of course they should keep him. Sure he’s had his fair share of mistakes, and I laid into him for leaving Jeffries on the court during a critical possession in Game 2. However, it’s unlikely that the Knicks will find a better coach on the open market. The downside for getting rid of D’Antoni is greater than the downside of keeping him. The only way New York should get rid of Mike D is if they have a coach that will, without a doubt, give them more wins next year. And how many coaches are there like that in the league?
Max Fisher-Cohen: The Knicks are stuck between a rock and a hard place. D’Antoni’s system maximizes Amaré’s talents. Unfortunately, because it gets great value out of cheap wing players, under D’Antoni Anthony is a waste of money. That said, with ‘Melo’s improvements from distance and on defense, I am confident that he can be effective in SSOL, and the lost value from our investment in him is outweighed by the loss we would see were Amaré forced to play in a system centered around ‘Melo. Therefore, I say keep D’Antoni. The roster will still need big adjustments, but Mike’s system is the best fit for our stars.
Jim Cavan: Mike D’Antoni has coached 63 players since he arrived from Phoenix in 2008. Sixty three. That’s more than 20 per season. And still there are many who believe Mike D’Antoni has had enough of a chance, and ought to be taken to pasture. Sure, late game blunders in the first two games of the Boston series certainly didn’t help his cause. If anything, it merely added a bitter icing to a calloused cake his critics had long since baked.
The elephant in the gym – and the cause célèbre of his detractors – continues to be D’Antoni’s… how do I say this… defensive indifference? The Bockers showed flashes of lock-down D, but flashes are not, and will never be, good enough. When you look at the teams who have won championships over the last 30 or so years, it’s hard to find one who didn’t take just as much – if not more – pride on the defensive end as they did on offense. Sure, it would be to watch the Knicks be the exception to this rule. But such a scenario is about as likely as JD and the Straight Shots headlining Lollapalooza.
The defense deficit wasn’t lost on the front office, which has “asked” D’Antoni to hire a defensive assistant. Steve Kerr tried that very thing during D’Antoni’s final season in Phoenix, recommending Tom Thibadeau for the roll of bad cop. D’Antoni ended up walking, clearly insulted by the notion that a really good offense doesn’t qualify as defense. But after a season – as promising as it was – in which they finished 22nd in the league in defensive efficiency, and with the pressure cooker of New York having made itself more than known, D’Antoni can’t afford to not listen this time.
That said, D’Antoni deserves a chance to finish what he started. Hopefully that means taking the team deep into the Playoffs in 2012. But if next April we find ourselves lamenting another sub-50 win season and subsequent first round exit, the cries from more critical corners won’t be silenced so easily.
John Kenney: Barring Bill Simmons’ dream scenario of Phil Jackson returning to coach his old team, I say keep d’Antoni. Judging a coach off of half a season coaching a roster that was more gutted than a fish caught by Jared Jeffries is not a good move. If we need a coaching change, there will be time after next season to evaluate that. But does anyone think we will be a title-contending team next season? Why not allow the team to grow, see if Billups and Anthony can grow into a semi-SSOL system, and let the results determine whether or not d’Antoni’s contract deserves to be extended. There is little downside to the move, and as Mike says, there is not a coach available at this point who represents a clear upgrade from d’Antoni. One step I would like to see taken? Hiring a defensive coach to implement a more effective scheme.
Beyond his work for KnickerBlogger, Jim is a contributor to the New York Times Off the Dribble NBA blog, ESPN.com, and The Classical. He is currently working on a biography of Robert Silverman, titled "Clownin' and Astoundin.'" Follow him on Twitter @JPCavan.