NEW YORK, March 14, 2012 (AFP) – Mike D’Antoni resigned as coach of the New York Knicks on Wednesday with the NBA team mired in a six-game losing streak and star playmaker Carmelo Anthony struggling to fit into the overall scheme.
Knicks assistant coach Mike Woodson will take over the team immediately and to the end of the season, the team said in a Twitter posting just before a news conference featuring Woodson and Knicks owner James Dolan.
“We have mutually agreed with Mike D’Antoni that he will no longer coach the Knicks,” Dolan said.
An unexpected meeting after a morning practice led to D’Antoni telling Dolan the Knicks would be better off without him as coach.
“He clearly felt it was best for the organization if he were to not continue as coach of the team,” Dolan said.
“He did offer to stay, but after a long discussion we did agree that it was best to have a new voice for the team moving forward.”
Woodson, a former coach of the Atlanta Hawks, now has the task of melding the talents of Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin into a playoff team.
“The season is not over,” Dolan said. “This team can still be the team the fans hoped and wished it could be. I believe we have the talent and character to succeed and I believe these guys can do it.”
The Knicks entered a Wednesday home game against Portland at 18-24 and level with Milwaukee for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
‘We have to move forward’
Dolan gave his full support to Woodson but made it clear that nothing about the Knicks’ coaching position is secured beyond the end of this campaign.
“Mike (Woodson) understands we will be re-evaluating at the end of the season,” Dolan said. “I believe he can put together a drive at the end of the season to get into the playoffs.”
Knicks vice president of basketball operations Glen Grunwald said he was disappointed to lose D’Antoni but confident in Woodson, a former college teammate 30 years ago at Indiana University.
“Now we have to move forward,” Grunwald said. “We’re going to do everything we can to get this team back into the playoffs. I think our team is in good hands.”
D’Antoni went 121-167 with the Knicks since taking over in 2008 after five seasons guiding the Phoenix Suns. He coached Phoenix into the playoffs four times but only nudged New York into the post-season once during his tenure.
The move comes on the eve of the NBA trade deadline and after the Bucks made a five-player deal with Golden State to improve their chances in the final 24 games of the season.
Lin, whose parents are from Taiwan, became a global sensation by coming off the bench and leading the Knicks to seven triumphs in a row last month.
But since the return of Anthony from injury, the Knicks have struggled to find the same rhythm and have fallen seven games behind Atlantic division leader Philadelphia after dropping six games in a row.
Anthony prefers to work on his own to generate scoring chances rather than in the team system D’Antoni had stressed, the scheme that worked so well during Lin’s rise to stardom.
D’Antoni, whose contract was set to expire at the end of the season, reportedly departed the Knicks because of disagreements over how to make the club a winner. – AFP