How Much Longer Until Firing Mike Woodson Is NY Knicks' Only Option?

Ciaran GowanContributor IIIDecember 9, 2013

Dec 5, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson coaches against the Brooklyn Nets during the second quarter of a game at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013-14 NBA season has been a major disappointment for the New York Knicks so far, and something needs to change quickly to salvage the remainder.

Just a year after recording 54 wins and earning the Atlantic Division title, the Knicks are bottom-dwellers in a weak Eastern Conference and don't look like they're going to be moving up any time soon.

New York gave fans hope with its consecutive 30-plus point victories over the Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic, but its demoralizing 41-point defeat at the hands of the (somehow) division-leading Boston Celtics surely cancelled out any momentum that may have been generated.

The Knicks certainly have the talent to be an elite team in the East, but it's hard to put a finger on exactly why they're struggling. Tyson Chandler's injury has had an impact, of course, but it goes much deeper than that. The chemistry between these players just isn't there and, as a result, confidence is on the decline.

Though a large portion of the blame has to go to the inconsistency of players like J.R. Smith and Raymond Felton, head coach Mike Woodson is hardly blameless for what has transpired this year. He has struggled to rally the team, and his system and rotations have rightly come into question.

Change is needed in New York in some form and, for better or for worse, that could mean firing Mike Woodson. A trade could also spark the team, but Iman Shumpert is the Knicks' only real trade piece and, considering his strong relationship with teammates, it's hard to see that ending positively.

For the time being, Woodson needs to be given the benefit of the doubt. His track record shows he's a good coach and he's had a lot to deal with in terms of injuries and key veterans leaving the team. 

Finding a suitable rotation with Chandler out has been difficult. Kenyon Martin is much less effective in the pick-and-roll, but Andrea Bargnani's awful help defense has made it hard to trust him as the lone big man in a small-ball system.

When Chandler comes back, Woodson will likely revert to his opening-day frontcourt of Carmelo Anthony, Bargnani and Chandler, which works in terms of spacing and makes use of Bargnani's underrated one-on-one defense without relying on him to hold down the paint.

If results don't change with Chandler back, however, a coaching switch starts to make a lot more sense, but even then it will be difficult to pull off. There aren't that many options out there, and it's difficult to picture a self-respecting coach actually wanting to work for James Dolan after seeing what he's done with this franchise over the years.

In fact, Dolan's influence on the team even brings in to question exactly how much of a say Woodson gets. He's been pressured to play certain players, which makes him more of a scapegoat than someone who genuinely needs to be changed in order for the team to succeed.

We know Woodson has a good relationship with these players, and that he has been able to get the best out of Anthony and Smith in the past. As frustrating as it is to see the team consistently make the same mistakes, it's still early and very possible that he could eventually break through to this team.

Against the Nets and Magic, the Knicks looked like the team we all know and love and, hopefully, that's a sign that there could be light at the end of the tunnel with Woodson in charge. The loss to the Celtics was tough, but it's not unusual for teams to slip up in early tipoffs (not that that justifies such a huge home defeat).

Woodson is already under contract for next year and has earned the benefit of the doubt after the best first 100 games of any coach in franchise history.

Firing him shouldn't be a genuine option until we see what the team can do with Chandler back in the lineup, and even then the looming presence of Dolan and the CAA adds doubt to whether or not that would be a justified move.