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Mike Woodson had the interim tag removed. Now he has the bullseye on him to produce.
It was fun when Mike D'Antoni was overseeing a run and gun, beat the clock system in New York, the sort of system that provided a bridge from the troubles to contention with enough entertainment to overcome the reality that they would never actually beat the best teams that way.
It made a star of Raymond Felton and a worldwide phenom of Jeremy Lin.
But D'Antoni is gone now and in his place is Mike Woodson. Woodson stepped in as an interim head coach last season and guided the Knicks down the stretch with a renewed interest in defense. He got the full-time gig shortly afterward and was allowed to oversee a restructuring of the roster that fits perfectly with what he wants to do—defend and play with veterans.
To be able to add veteran guys that are defensive-minded, that are battle tested, and that have won I think is huge as we move down the road in terms of trying to reach the pinnacle goal of winning the NBA title. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. We’ve got to position ourselves through the regular season, trying to win our division, trying to secure one of the top four spots where we hold first round at home and then from there trying to win an NBA title.
Woodson is thrilled to try this after seeing his first head coaching job end as the youthful Atlanta Hawks got better but were erratic and, in the end, unable to move forward with a talented and confounding cast of characters. Now, he has a team in his own image—hard-working, tough and experienced.
The true test will come with time though. Will Carmelo Anthony work as hard on defense as he did when Woodson took over? Do players continue to respond to the harsh tone and strong demands of Woodson—who, we recall, played for Bobby Knight?
If not, Woodson can at least say he did it his way.
Steve Popper is a Contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.