The first quarter of the 2012-13 NBA regular season has been one to remember for the New York Knicks. They presently have the second-best record in the NBA at 17-5 and rank in the top 10 in both points scored and points allowed.
For that reason, the NBA Coach of the Year award is already Mike Woodson's to lose.
There may be other coaches who deserve praise, but none have achieved what Coach Woodson has pulled off. Not only has he led the Knicks to their best start of the millennium, but he has them sitting alone atop the Eastern Conference standings.
The Knicks haven't won the regular-season Eastern Conference crown since 1993.
Of course, we still have three-quarters of the season remaining. Injuries could strike, momentum could wither, and the postseason picture could become rather crowded.
The fact of the matter is, this is not momentum. Woodson has established greatness with a team that has been masterfully constructed by the front office and the coach himself.
Even if the team were to falter, one thing is clear. The award is Woodson's to lose.
Even If We Should Have, No One Saw It Coming
The most common misconception about the New York Knicks is that there was no way to see their development into a powerhouse coming. That is a horrendously misleading statement to make about a team that has been building toward this level for over nine months.
The Knicks have been this good since Mike Woodson first took over. Yes, this good.
Who is in the lead for the Coach of the Year award?
The Knicks were 18-6 under coach Woodson in 2011-12. They're 17-5 to start the 2012-13 regular season.
Under Woodson, New York put up team averages of 99.9 points for and 91.5 points against in 2011-12. They're averaging 103.2 points scored and 95.8 allowed in 2012-13.
In other words, Woodson has transformed the Knicks from a one-way threat to a two-way monster. Which brings us to our next point.
The one that seals the deal.
Transforming the Culture
There are head coaches, such as Larry Drew of the Atlanta Hawks, Mark Jackson of the Golden State Warriors and Lionel Hollins of the Memphis Grizzlies, who have led their teams to unforeseen success. Each are deserving of praise.
With that being said, no coach has transformed the culture of their team like Mike Woodson.
Woodson is the coach of two of the most notorious one-way players in the NBA. The offensive-minded Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith.
Woodson has found a way to to convert 'Melo and Smith into defense-first players who give an equal effort on both ends of the floor, something that we hadn't previously seen during their combined 17 years in the league.
Furthermore, Woodson has made team players out of notorious ball-stoppers. 'Melo and Smith, once again, come to mind.
Creating a Dominant Force
Anyone who tells you that the New York Knicks are not legitimate is either biased or too afraid of their upside to admit the truth.
This is the key to Mike Woodson's candidacy as the Coach of the Year front-runner.
Not only are the Knicks winning games, but they appear to be the class of the Eastern Conference. They have the superstar scorers and sharpshooting role players to maintain their offensive proficiency as well as the effort and personnel to dominate defensively.
With two former Defensive Player of the Year Award winners on the team in Tyson Chandler and Marcus Camby, one would be hard-pressed to argue that.
Furthermore, this has not been an instance of the Knicks starting hot. They've played this well since March 14.
That gives New York time to have cooled down during the most recent offseason. Instead, they've maintained what appears to be a permanent pace.
There is no getting around how impressive a job that coaches such as Gregg Popovich, Larry Drew and Lionel Hollins have done. There's also no way to avoid one simple fact.
The Coach of the Year award is Mike Woodson's to lose.