It's no secret that the New York Knicks have been a disaster so far, and that head coach Mike Woodson is skating on thin ice. But that doesn't mean Woodson has given up hope that his Knickerbockers can storm back to take the Atlantic Division.
Per TheKnicksBlog's Adam Zagoria:
“Nobody’s running away with the division, and I still think our team can win the division,” Woodson said Wednesday amid reports that he could be fired if the Knicks lose in Brooklyn on Thursday. “We won it last year and I think we can get back to winning and win it this year.”
Those are bold words coming from a coach whose team is currently tied for the fewest wins in the NBA. But when one stands back and takes stock of the wretchedness that is the Atlantic, is Woodson's statement really that absurd?
The 3-13 Knicks are currently only three games back of the 8-12 Boston Celtics for the division lead. To put that into perspective, the second-place team in the Central (Chicago) is eight games back of the first-place Indiana Pacers. As bad as the Knicks have been, they still have a better chance of taking the Atlantic than any team in the Eastern Conference's other two divisions not named "Miami" or "Indiana."
Per Zagoria, Woodson acknowledges the team's rough stretch, but sounds a defiant tone about his ability to coach the team moving forward:
I’ve had the opportunity to come in here and coach a team and turn a team around and right now we’ve had our ups and downs this early season. But am I going to throw in the towel? Absolutely not. I’m still the coach of this team. We got a big game tomorrow night which I think we can win, so we just gotta stay focused and stay the course.
While Woodson is indeed still the coach of the team at the moment, there's no longer any guarantee that he will be the coach at the end of the season...or even the end of the month. The coaching rumor mill has already started spinning, with George Karl and Jeff Van Gundy being mentioned.
But according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, Van Gundy and Karl are among Woodson's biggest supporters.
“I watch the Knicks play and I wouldn’t want to be in that hell for a million dollars. It’s just New York City and the Garden and the immensity of the pressure. I think Mike Woodson is standing up to it with tremendous integrity,” Karl told Denver radio host Dave Krieger (via Isola).
One of Van Gundy’s close friends, who spoke to Isola, said, "Jeff thinks that is distasteful. He also can’t believe how a guy who won 54 games is in trouble when Tyson Chandler has been out and a lot of the other key players are struggling. Carmelo is the one guy playing well but he isn’t getting much help.”
Also per Isola, Knicks legend Allan Houston might be another possible candidate to replace Woodson. But Houston has never coached at any level, and given the drama surrounding another neophyte head coach just across the river in Brooklyn, would the Knicks really be so eager to hand the reins to the untested Houston?
But one can never predict what the Knicks front office might do next. Only one thing is certain: Woodson better start winning games, effective immediately.