Maybe if the family trees of John Wooden and Phil Jackson crossed branches at some point without our knowledge, there'd be a coach out there who could cure what ails both the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks.
Barring that, there's probably not a single person on Earth who could salvage these two wrecks.
Still, with Jason Kidd staring off into space and Mike Woodson lacking any answers, there's got to be somebody out there who could do a better job than the guys currently stalking the sidelines.
Finding a fix won't be easy. The Knicks and Nets are both very bad for very different reasons. So I guess we'd better try to find coaching replacements one at a time.
The Disastrous Dolans
In terms of abject on-court failure, the Knicks are actually in slightly better shape than the Nets this season. That's a tough concept to get one's head around after seeing the Boston Celtics hand New York a 41-point loss at home on Dec. 8.
But in terms of overall statistical (non)achievement, the Knicks are markedly less awful than Brooklyn.
From a purely statistical standpoint, the Knicks are a better team right now. That's damning with faint praise, though. And it's not as if we can view the Knicks as a collection of numbers. They, and their myriad problems, go far beyond objective statistics.
The biggest non-numerical issue with the Knicks is that James Dolan's franchise is so utterly bereft of capable leadership that any half-sane coach is sure to keep his distance.
George Karl would have been an intriguing fit for the Knicks. There's a roster in place that excelled at his brand of offense as recently as last year. New York is a team that works best in smaller lineups, even when Tyson Chandler returns. In theory, Karl could install an effective system that relies on pace, three-point shooting and depth.
He's made a Hall of Fame career out of that brand of ball, and we know the Knicks have the quirky kind of personnel that could come close to mirroring the group Karl led in Denver last season.
The problem, though, is that Karl is a sensible human being. He recently called it like he saw it, burying the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony in a series of scathing, accurate comments.
Per Jay Williams of ESPN, Karl had his fill of the 'Melo experience the first time around. He's not interested in a second helping:
Always brutally honest, Karl also crushed New York's well-documented team-wide dysfunction.
Per Dave Krieger of 850 KOA in Denver, Karl quipped, "I mean, I watch the Knicks play and I wouldn’t want to be in that hell for a million dollars."
Something tells me that if Karl wound up coaching the Knicks, he'd command a whole lot more than $1 million. But you can still understand his point: Coaching the Knicks would feel very much like eternal damnation.
With all this talk of coaching replacements, it's worth mentioning that current coach Mike Woodson probably doesn't rate among the Knicks' top 10 most significant issues. He has certainly lost some respect from outside observers, but it at least seems that the current players are still behind him.
Per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:
Mike Woodson’s most important ally, Carmelo Anthony, admitted that Knick players are "worried" that Woodson could lose his job if the Knicks don’t turn their season around.
"I mean, yeah, we’re worried about that," Anthony said on Tuesday. "But then again, we’ve got to worry about playing basketball, man. I think that’s been a problem in New York all this time. Everybody worries about what’s being said on the outside."
If Anthony's concern about Woodson's future is genuine, any decent coaches willing to assume the burden of working in Madison Square Garden might have to lead a group of players who aren't happy to see a new face.
Allan Houston, someone Dolan seems committed to installing in a position of power one way or another, is a possible candidate to replace Woodson in the event of a change, Isola reports:
But Allan Houston, supposedly the GM in training, looms as a potential successor. The word around Knicks camp is that Dolan wouldn’t hesitate to promote him to head coach if the Knicks don’t turn things around sooner than later.
It's difficult to put anything past Dolan, but you'd think that after seeing how poorly the coaching experiment has gone with the Nets, even he would have the sense to think twice before installing an inexperienced former player to lead a veteran roster.
Former Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy might also be an option, but some of his recent comments indicate that he's not in love with the current roster.
In an interview with Mike Lupica on ESPN 98.7 (via Peter Botte of the New York Daily News), he said:
Listen, Mike Woodson, and I believe I have my numbers right, was 18-6 (after) he took over from Mike D’Antoni. Then he won a division title. Then they made some roster moves, they’ve had some injuries. And so they’re now starting Kenyon Martin, Andrea Bargnani, (Carmelo) Anthony, (Raymond) Felton and (Iman) Shumpert. That’s the strength of their team. Their depth, with some of these injuries, is nonexistent. So listen, this isn’t a coaching issue right now. This is a roster issue.
JVG doesn't sound very excited about a job with the Knicks.
That's fine; he'd be a much better fit someplace else. How's that for a segue?
Think about it: The Nets are a veteran team with a lot of banged-up talent that desperately wants to win right now. Very few of Van Gundy's criticisms about the Knicks roster apply to the Nets. Mikhail Prokhorov's expensive NBA experiment actually has plenty of quality players who fit together well.
They all just happen to be battling age and injury at the moment.
There's not much to suggest that Kidd's job is in serious jeopardy, but there's no question that he's in the wrong situation. Being a first-time head coach is hard enough without the massive expectations of a historically bloated payroll and Prokhorov's "championship or bust" mandate.
He's simply not ready for this job.
Van Gundy's classic no-nonsense, defense-first philosophy would present a nice alternative to whatever the clueless Kidd is preaching. JVG is well respected and seems like the kind of gritty, old-school type whose personality would mesh well with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Getting the ears of the Nets' most influential locker room presences would be a snap.
Lawrence Frank is a former assistant of Van Gundy's, so maybe JVG would take a little extra joy in replacing Kidd after the way he ran Frank out of town.
At the same time, Van Gundy might not want to get in bed with a franchise that allowed his former protege to be cast aside so coldly.
Jeff makes a lot of sense here, but if he doesn't want the job in Brooklyn, maybe the Nets could opt for his brother instead.
Aside from only having to change one word on the offer sheet, Stan Van Gundy would bring a number of positives to the Nets.
He's had a ton of success in a relatively short career, he has a high profile that Prokhorov would like, and he has plenty to prove after getting such a raw deal at his last stop in Orlando. History has pretty much resolved the Dwight Howard debacle in Van Gundy's favor, but the veteran coach is certainly due for a shot to solidify his status as a winner.
He could be a great fit on the Barclays Center sideline.
The Absurd Option
There's absolutely no way it'd ever happen, but if the Nets and Knicks just swapped coaches, it might solve a lot of problems.
Brooklyn needs a guy with some experience, and New York clearly misses Kidd's influence on the bench. Maybe Kidd could even suit up for a game or two to help get the ball moving again.
The Knicks and Nets are fiercely competitive, so they'd never dream of exchanging assets. Plus, it's not clear that any team would actually benefit from Kidd's presence—even if he was surrounded by former teammates who respect him.
But all of the sensible options seem far-fetched, so here we are considering completely ridiculous solutions.
In truth, both the Nets and Knicks are in need of more than new coaches. They need do-overs for the first quarter of the season.
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