The owner has spoken...supposedly.
In the wake of the New York Knicks' humiliating 29-point home loss on Christmas day, owner James Dolan felt it necessary to meet with his team and reassure them, according to ESPN's Marc Stein:
Going online now: ESPN sources say Knicks owner James Dolan told his players Thursday no trades or changes to coaching staff are forthcoming— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) December 27, 2013
Now, we don't have any firsthand accounts of what was actually said—the Knicks refuse to go on the record, as usual.
Chandler said he wasn't sure of any Dolan chat/talk w the tm abt roster being set. Then said "I've been prepped" on how to discuss the issue— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 28, 2013
But it certainly seems like Dolan is prepared to stay the course.
But in the wake of yet another embarrassing home loss, 95-83 to the Toronto Raptors, Knicks fans are asking themselves one question: Will Dolan change his mind?
Probably not...at least in the immediate future, anyway. Embattled head coach Mike Woodson will live to coach another day. If anything, it's a matter of logistics. The Knicks travel to Toronto for another game 24 hours later, and it would be nearly impossible to fire a coach in such a short amount of time. Throw in the fact that Woodson has a legitimate excuse at the moment—the absence of Carmelo Anthony—he is likely to keep coaching the Knicks for the time being.
Before the game, Woodson certainly acted like a coach who was secure in his job. Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal reported that Woodson had turned a deaf ear to his critics in the stands at MSG:
Woodson on chants calling for his firing: "I don't hear it."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 27, 2013
He even flirted with the idea of starting a "huge lineup," featuring a frontcourt of Tyson Chandler, Kenyon Martin and Andrea Bargnani. Iman Shumpert ended up starting in place of Martin, but the comment was a fascinating look into the stubbornness of the Knicks head coach.
New York went 54-28 last season using mostly small lineups, but this season Woodson has insisted on riding "big" frontcourts, even as the Knicks have gone down in flames. That Chandler/Martin/Bargnani would have been Woodson's piece de resistance.
One thing's for sure—if the Knicks players are really interested in keeping Woodson as their coach, they didn't play like it on Friday.
New York was lucky to catch Toronto off its game in the first half. The Raptors turned the ball over 10 times and shot just 37.8 percent from the field before halftime. Even without the services of Anthony, New York built a 12-point lead in the third quarter.
Then the Raptors woke up, and the Knicks wilted. The Knicks could only manage 12 points in the fourth quarter as Toronto stormed into the lead and never looked back. DeMar DeRozan lit into the Knicks' Swiss-cheese D in the fourth, and when he didn't finish, the Raptors simply snatched the offensive rebound away from New York. The Knicks' notorious switch-heavy defense repeatedly left three-point shooters open in the corner.
After the game, both Chandler and J.R. Smith blamed the Knicks' defensive schemes for their lackluster play down the stretch.
JR Smith said the constant switching on defense hurt the Knicks in the 4Q, and left guards trying to rebound against TORs post players.— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 28, 2013
Chandler has interesting point abt fatigue. Says "when you're constantly in rotations/getting mismatched on defense" it takes a greater toll— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) December 28, 2013
The players need to play, of course, but these defensive scheme problems are on Woodson. If he is forcing the players to switch screens for no reason, then he is a bad coach, and he needs to go. If his players are switching screens for no reason despite his orders, then he's lost the team, and he needs to go. Either way, he needs to go.
But he won't go. Not yet.
WWJDD: What Would Jimmy Dolan Do?
Is it really so shocking that Dolan is standing by Woodson? After all, Woodson has a history of being loyal...to his guys.
The most famous case of Dolan taking care of Dolan's boys is the long, sad saga of Isiah Thomas. Those tragic years need no reintroduction—the shortsighted trades that ruined the team for a generation, the humiliating Anucha Browne Sanders trial. Through it all, Dolan stood by his guy.
And he showed the world during a November interview with Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post that he still stands by Thomas:
Do I think [Thomas] deserves another shot? Yeah. It just can’t be here. And I think he’s talented. I think he’s particularly talented at finding basketball talent. But I think he’s probably dismayed at this point. But I don’t see him coming back to New York. I couldn’t do that to him, and I couldn’t do that to the organization. He would probably do it as my friend but I couldn’t do it to him or his family. And you know what the press would do here.
That is quite a bit of loyalty to a man who turned the Knicks into the laughingstock of American sports. If Woodson has earned even half the carte blanche Thomas earned with the Knicks, then he isn't likely to be fired anytime soon.
The real surprise in this situation isn't that Dolan is sticking with his head coach, but that he has yet to make a disastrous trade in a futile attempt to jump-start this team. Throughout the Dolan era, the Knicks have been famous for trading draft picks and promising players for quick fixes.
There were rumors of a trade involving Raptors' point guard Kyle Lowry, and that the trade was nixed because Dolan was sensitive to accusations he had been fleeced in the past by Raptors' GM Masai Ujiri. If that's true, then it might have been the smartest move Dolan has ever made.
In truth, there are no quick fixes for the Knicks team. Woodson should be fired, but replacing him with a competent coach won't magically transform New York into contenders. Any trade aimed at improving this current team at the expense of future assets should be scrapped immediately. New York is already missing its 2014 and 2016 first-round picks because of Dolan's impatience; the Knicks don't need to add 2018 to that sorry list.
As bad as Woodson has been for New York, the fans are better off at the moment with an owner who wants to do nothing. History has shown us that an active Dolan usually leads to disaster.