I’m typing this sentence because it’s been 40 minutes since Mike Woodson burned his last bridge with Knicks fans and I don’t feel like staring at a blank page any longer. And I’m typing this sentence because life is about moving on and making the best of it even when things aren’t going your way which, incidentally, is exactly the reason that Woodson shouldn’t be the Knicks’ coach by the time I wake up tomorrow morning.
It’s not personal with Coach Woodson, even if it starts to feel that way on nights like tonight. Nights when we wince at the carelessness of a missed two-for-one and then begin to lose the sensation in our extremities at the first glimpse of Beno on Beal and then feel the numbness radiate through our arms and legs to our cores as a completely baffled Carmelo Anthony waits for a play or a pause or a clue that never comes and finally lofts the fruits of his vacant disbelief harmlessly off the high glass, peering at his coach with equal parts curiosity and distress even as the ball still bounces to a sputtering halt. And we sputter on with it, shocked by how easy it all seemed and how easy it all disappeared and how familiar a cocktail it has become, this mixture of incredulity and angst. But it’s not personal, not quite.
It’s just all become too much by now. Too much for us and I wonder, in moments of self-reflection and candor, if it’s just too much for him too. This can’t be fun, could hardly be bearable, and there’s so much of it — the boss, the media, the fit, the egos — that he has no control over, that must have been a source of stress and doubt from word one. And yet he perseveres and he takes the body blows himself and there’s certainly a quiet nobility to that. I would never deny it, would never stop respecting it. He has a strength and loyalty that is downright honorable and I like him, at least from what I can sense of who he is.
But it’s over. It has to be. This must be what “over” looks like: when the simplest of tactical decisions are butchered, when the most straightforward principles of personnel utilization are openly ignored, when the answers in press conferences oscillate between hostility, indifference, and admissions of incompetence that sound like the taunts of a man who has run out of reasons to care what you think of him. It’s like a bad marriage, all bitterness and exasperation and anticipation of the next failing, the next opportunity to play the cat and mouse game of scapegoating and evasion and confrontation and disgust.
Mike Woodson has coached 129 regular season games for the Knicks. His record is 79-50, good for a .612 winning percentage that is better than every single coach in franchise history whose name isn’t Pat Riley. The suggestion that he doesn’t deserve a 130th game, viewed in that light, seems like pure madness. Add to that the difficult truth that there may not be a better option out there right now, that even if there is, he probably won’t jump at the opportunity to coach a team that would still have plenty wrong with it. It doesn’t matter, not now, not when stagnation looms scarier than uncertainty and any risks associated with discarding the devil we know are minimized by how little a team playing like this has to lose anyway.
Mike Woodson has done well in a hard job, has compiled a Knick coaching record that anyone could be proud of. It’s not personal. It’s just over. This is what “over” looks like.