With Friday’s announcement that Mike Woodson will be permanently installed as head coach, the New York Knicks front office quietly heralded the dawning of a new age at Madison Square Garden.
By overlooking former Knicks legend Phil Jackson, owner James L Dolan has indicated that maybe he is prepared to accept that while headline grabbing signatures may succeed in luring fans back to the Gardens, success is something that cannot be bought. Or maybe he has only just realised that on-court success is the only seed that can create long-term growth in the bank account – either way, during Dolan’s reign at MSG the words understated and Knicks have been as likely to appear in the same sentence as the words Amare Stoudemire and above-average intelligence.
Many observers will be left scratching their heads as to why Jackson was never even approached about the position, although those with an understanding of Dolan’s my-way-or-the-highway approach to business affairs will realise that the big-name appointment of Jackson would have been as likely to have created havoc as it would success. Consequently, the apparently quiet and understated appointment of the interim coach should actually be viewed as being a truly seismic event in terms of how the Knicks operate in relation to their business model.
Woodson, meanwhile, has already shown that he is happy for the boss to call the tune, and just before being appointed he fired his long-term agents in favor of new representation that is known to be preferred by Dolan. So although the former Hawks coach is likely to be given a free hand in on-the-court affairs, it looks as if Dolan will continue to personally cut the cloth that Woodson is asked to work with.
With it now appearing that Jeremy Lin will be back to run point for another season in New York, the question that most Knicks fans are currently asking is whether or not Woodson will be able to build a system that can integrate Lin’s ability to smoke past defenders on a pick-and-roll alongside Carmelo Anthony’s preference to go it alone in isolation? But the questions do not stop there. What, for instance, will Woodson do with Amare Stoudemire who, once again this season, has been consistent only in his ability to frustrate and disappoint? Unlike the New York public, does he want shot missing machine JR Smith to return? Can he find a way of allowing Landry Fields to develop the potential that he showed during his brief stint at small forward this spring?
In shoring-up the Knicks defense, Woodson had no hesitation in building a system where the lion’s share of responsibility was placed upon the sturdy shoulders of Tyson Chandler and, make no mistake, the former Maverick handled that responsibility like the lion that he is. Now, in order to reward Dolan’s decision to value success above box office, the new coach must find some way of grooming at least one of his offensive man-cubs so that next season Chandler is not the team’s solitary jungle MVP.
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