After being brought in as backup dancers, Mike Woodson and P.J. Carlesimo are now the stars of their own successful shows. And coincidentally, they've saved their respective teams by drinking formula from the same bottle.
Prior to July 2010, A.K.A. the summer of LeBron and the power free agents, the Knicks and Nets were looking to dress up their homes and roll out red carpets to increase their appeal as attractive destinations.
The Knicks made a splash in 2008, hiring Mike D'Antoni to help recruit anyone and everyone from LeBron James to Amar'e Stoudemire. Known as a player's coach with an entertaining approach to the game, D'Antoni sounded like the perfect ring leader for the new Big Apple Circus.
The Nets went with Avery Johnson in June of 2010, who coached the Mavericks to at least 51 wins from 2005 to 2008. A recently retired guard known for his passion and personable disposition, Johnson's ability to connect with players was certainly a plus in the strength category.
But while both coaches had success in acquiring high-profile talent, neither had success exploiting it.
By making the switches from D'Antoni to Woodson and Johnson to Carlesimo, each team's management went to the bullpen and called in the closers. The moves changed their cultures from new school to old school, and the result has been for the better.
Given the experience on each roster, the Nets and Knicks didn't need hip, likable friends as head coaches. They needed OGs with street credit, and that's what they got with Woodson and Carlesimo.
There's a certain level of respect that veterans have for no-nonsense senior coaches.
The Nets acquired Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace to pair with Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, while the Knicks surrounded Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire with J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton. Woodson and Carlesimo have helped transform loose talent into disciplined units, the way D'Antoni and Johnson never could.
The Nets are 11-2 since Carlesimo took over, while the Knicks' tone has changed from joking to serious.
Sometimes you have to update the workout mix on your iPod to help rev up your own motor. A new voice in each locker room was needed, with both Woodson and Carlesimo tailored to fit the personnel they now find themselves coaching.
You can argue about the significance of every stat in the book, but not wins. And since each coach has taken over, their teams' respective records have improved.
Brooklyn and New York had been looking for the keys to their cars, not realizing they'd been holding them in their hands the whole time. These coaches were promoted in-house and turned out more qualified than their predecessors.
They've made adjustments, with Carlesimo mixing up rotations and Woodson changing schemes on both sides of the ball, but ultimately it's the players buying in that has been the difference in performance.
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