Mike Woodson's days with the New York Knicks are numbered.
The franchise has played some really lousy games this year, like its 41-point loss to the Boston Celtics, and there have been few signs pointing to a Woodson-led turnaround. Sooner or later, a coaching change will be made.
Figuring New York has trouble landing a premier name already established in the NBA, let's take a look at which college coaches would be the best fit for the Knicks. Omitted from this list are the likes of Bill Self, Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo because of how unlikely it is that those men leave their storied programs.
Instead, listed are five coaches likely to make the jump to the pros if given the opportunity.
Buzz Williams has done an impressive job at Marquette since taking over for Tom Crean.
Under his watch, the Golden Eagles have won at least 20 games and made the NCAA Tournament each season. Williams has been a dedicated student of the game, and in the adjacent video, he discusses his coaching career and how it began.
The Knicks will need someone passionate like Williams that can come in, motivate the roster and instill the mental fortitude necessary to deal with the adversity that comes from losing and poor officiating. New York has had a problem remaining positive—like J.R. Smith sulking on the bench against the Atlanta Hawks—and too often, losing focus after a bad call or two.
With Williams at the helm, the Knicks would be focused, positive and energized to play basketball the right way for 48 minutes. New York wouldn't be coming out flat in the third quarter under Williams, it would be prepared for its opponent's adjustments.
Williams had the following to say on scouting, via Drew Olson of ESPNMadison.com,
How we handle scouting is probably unique to some organizations, but our kids know what to expect when it comes to scouting. My staff has been incredible. This year and in years past, for that matter, in scouting. I'm over the top on the analytics involved as a team, as an individual.
Scouting and game preparation has been a problem for the Knicks, seeing as how NY has had a tendency to start some games or second halves with little energy and confidence.
Since his days at VCU, Anthony Grant has been lauded as one of the more promising coaches in college basketball. His teams play tough defense and always give it their all.
This season, Alabama has struggled a little, particularly on the offensive end. Since the Crimson Tide have few shooters capable of consistently knocking down shots, you can't blame Grant too much, but excuses shouldn't be made.
According to Grant, via Michael Casagrande of AL.com: "We have some limitations. OK? But for us, it's more about focusing on what gives us the best chance of being successful and how do we go about doing that as a team." Grant also went on to say: "I think the challenge is how do you respond to adversity. And that's what our team is facing right now."
Grant understands the limitations of his team, but he doesn't use that as an excuse to fold under adversity. The Knicks need someone that will do the same, and Grant can be that leader.
John Beilein is a guard-friendly coach, and with New York's undersized roster, some of the pieces for his offensive system are already in place. Tim Hardaway Jr. spent three years with Beilein at Michigan University and is familiar with the two-guard front offense that Beilein's teams have employed.
Beilein uses a lot of creative schemes to get his guys open, whether it's flow plays like he mentioned in the adjacent video, or off cuts and quick hitters. His offense is designed to circumvent the lack of a true post player and the Knicks definitely have that issue.
Seeing as how Mike Woodson has been playing three guards throughout his tenure as Knicks coach, there wouldn't be much culture shock or guys taken aback by role changes if Beilein was hired. In fact, guys like Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith should see themselves improving under Beilein as his system caters to their athleticism and shooting ability.
One of the keys to Beilein's offense is constant motion and the seamless transition from set to set.
The Knicks offense has been saddled by stagnancy this season because of an over-dependence on Carmelo Anthony's isolation abilities, and the lack of an offensive identity. Too often, NY will come down, run a quick pick-and-roll and if defended well, would revert to an isolation play by Anthony, Smith or Raymond Felton, instead of moving the ball for the next option because that option didn't exist.
New York's offense is too thin at the moment and barely has any wrinkles in it that could keep defenses honest. Hiring Beilein would give the Knicks a head coach with a deep offensive system that can be played out of if defended well initially.
Fred Hoiberg would bring credibility and NBA experience to the Knicks.
Over his 10-year career, he played and learned under coaches like Larry Brown, Tim Floyd, Flip Saunders and Kevin McHale. And since becoming the head coach of the Iowa State Cyclones, he's built a program that has risen into the upper echelon of the Big 12.
Hoiberg's offense is predicated on spacing, ball movement and taking advantage of mismatches: three things that have plagued NY this season. As seen in the video above, Hoiberg has designed a few basic sets to launch the offense out of transition that his players can play out of without being too restricted.
The "Hold" action, as seen in the beginning of the video, would be beneficial for Carmelo Anthony to get an easier post up opportunity than what he's used to.
Normally, Melo will come down the court on one side and get right into the post. By starting Anthony on the opposite end of the court, and bringing him to the block off of a screen, there's a good chance he could either catch the ball with minimal defense present and score right away, or he could catch the ball on the block, watch the scrambling defense rotate and dish it out to the open man.
Spacing is important to Hoiberg and his offense because it sets up the three-point shot, which has been the catalyst of his Iowa St. teams. Good spacing with proper dribble penetration and unselfish ball movement usually leads to open shots, which was a strong point for the Knicks last season.
The Cyclones website has a great video on Spacing 101, which features Fred Hoiberg and associate head coach T.J. Otzelberger, that I can't embed but recommend watching, here.
While the Knicks have improved defensively since Mike Woodson took over for Mike D'Antoni, New York still lacks consistency and end-to-end tenacity. That would be the first thing to change under Shaka Smart.
The head coach of the VCU Rams runs a brutal press, as broken down above, that can really manufacture points for a struggling offense.
Smart would change the culture in NY.
He wouldn't tolerate the constant switching that has occurred under Woodson, and his players would be vocal and energetic enough to properly rotate. Too many times there have been Knicks players lost on defense due to poor awareness and focus—like Amar'e Stoudemire's video game glitch against the Detroit Pistons, for instance, when STAT had trouble finding the ball and his man.
According to University of Virginia senior, Joe Harris, via Anna K. Clemmons of ESPN.com, “It’s tough,” Harris said of VCU’s defense. “That’s their whole mantra -- trying to play up-tempo offensively and up in your face defensively in the half-court and full-court. It’s definitely a different way to play.”
The Knicks need to drastically change their style of play, seeing as how lackadaisical defense and a stagnant offense has relegated the franchise and its fans to the doldrums.
NY's best bet to find the next Brad Stevens may lie in convincing Smart to leave VCU and try his hands at the NBA. Some college coaches have struggled at the next level, particularly with gaining the respect of their players, but that wouldn't be an issue with Smart, whose basketball acumen continues to impress students of the game.