There are many questions surrounding the New York Knicks as we head into training camp, but Mike Woodson's job security is not one of them.
On March 14, Mike D'Antoni resigned, and Woodson was named the interim head coach. For the final month-and-a-half of the Knicks' season, he made an admirable effort to provide stability on the sidelines. Unfortunately for Woodson, no amount of team chemistry was going to stop the Miami Heat, and New York was ousted in the first round.
That's not going to be good enough in 2012-13. The Knicks' aspirations are higher, and the task is daunting. Not only must Woodson continue preaching toughness to his team, but he must also find a way to accommodate both Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. That is a daunting task for any coach, much less one under the nose of an unforgiving media with championship expectations of its own.
Given what we've seen from Woodson and the way the Knicks treat their coaches, he shouldn't be on the hot seat quite so soon, though. Here are five reasons why we'll still see Woodson at the helm in 2013-14.
The Knicks didn't just bounce back when Woodson became the head coach; they improved demonstrably.
Before Mike D'Antoni resigned, the Knicks were going through an identity crisis. The up-tempo coach did not succeed in mixing the clashing styles of Anthony, Stoudemire and Jeremy Lin in his offense, and the team sputtered to an 18-24 start.
When Woodson stepped in, results followed. A move away from D'Antoni's offensive system and a rededication to defense gave New York just the spark it needed down the stretch. Woodson won as many games as his predecessor in nearly half the time, finishing the season 18-6 to lead the Knicks to the postseason.
Dating back to his time with the Atlanta Hawks, Woodson is 118-70 over his last three seasons as a head coach. A guy with that level of recent success deserves the benefit of the doubt until 2013-14 at the earliest.
Let's stick with defense for a moment, since that was where Woodson shined brightest last season.
Since 2008, Mike D'Antoni preached fast-paced offense while essentially ignoring the defense, and it showed. In his three full seasons as head coach, the Knicks allowed at least 106.9 points per 100 possessions. Even in D'Antoni's best defensive season, New York still ranked in the bottom third of the league in defensive efficiency.
The Knicks brought in Woodson during the 2011 offseason as an assistant, and his defensive prowess was apparent immediately. With the Defensive Player of the Year at his disposal in Tyson Chandler, Woodson's Knicks only allowed 98.4 points per 100 possessions, and they jumped from 21st to fifth in the league rankings.
Out of nowhere, Woodson turned the Knicks from an NBA doormat to a dominant defensive team. With a full offseason to implement his coaching philosophy, expect Woodson's team to keep up that level of play next season and beyond.
Marcus Camby (left) and Kurt Thomas
Woodson's success last season is even more impressive when you consider the players at his disposal.
Of the Knicks' starting five, only Chandler and Iman Shumpert showed any semblance of commitment on defense. With few defensive stoppers off the bench and little to no depth in the post, it's a marvel Woodson's team allowed as few points as it did.
This offseason, the Knicks reshaped the roster to fit Woodson's sensibilities. Hard-nosed Raymond Felton replaces Jeremy Lin at the point. Ronnie Brewer comes to town to lock down wing scorers. In a blast from the distant past, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas are back in New York, giving Chandler two experienced backups who won't get pushed around inside.
Whereas D'Antoni's teams are known for their speed, Woodson's teams are defined by their grit. Now the Knicks have personnel that fit the billing.
As good a coach as Woodson has proven himself to be, expectations are sky-high in New York. What happens if he falls short?
Well, he still probably gets another crack at it.
Since James Dolan took over Knicks operations, coaches have had some leeway in their first couple of seasons. Only one head coach got axed after one year; that was Larry Brown, he of the 23-59 record in 2005-06. Hall of Famer or no, you don't come back from that.
On the other hand, there have been a couple of coaches in the post-Jeff Van Gundy era that were given too long of a leash in New York. Don Chaney compiled a 72-112 record between 2001 and 2004, while the Knicks were even worse during Isiah Thomas' time on the sidelines, going 56-108.
Some would even argue that D'Antoni, who finished his Knicks tenure with a .420 winning percentage, was given too many chances with so little progress.
Given how Woodson finished last season and the talent he has to work with, it's highly unlikely we'll see a repeat of the Larry Brown campaign. That means we are all but guaranteed to see Woodson beyond next season.
Woodson, with Carmelo Anthony
More than anything else right now, the Knicks need continuity.
This is a team that has a limited window to pursue a championship. With only three more years under contract, Melo and Amar'e have to start gelling now if they want their best shot at unseating the Heat. To make the most of this opportunity, they cannot afford to switch coaches at the first sign of trouble.
If the Knicks start slow in 2012-13, the front office, players and fans will have to trust in Mike Woodson. He proved in his interim stint that he can win in New York, giving hope that he can lead the team through its slump and deep into the playoffs.
Firing Woodson would effectively end any chance of a championship run next season. The new coach will have to implement a new system for 2013-14, and the Knicks would be in almost exactly the same situation they're in right now.
Woodson's job is safe, and not only because he's a good coach. With the Knicks thinking championship or bust, he is also the last chance they have.