Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
There's one common thread behind all Knicks miscues we've discussed thus far, whether it be poor rotations, shoddy gameplanning, or flat out ineptitude.
Mike Woodson's failures have crippled the Knicks' chances this season more than any injury, missed shot or failed defensive rotation ever could.
Over and over, he's shown literally no awareness of what made the Knicks the force they were last season.
In just one calendar year, the offense has morphed from a beautiful display of screening and off-ball movement to a collection of four bystanders simply watching Anthony or Smith dribble with no regard.
This year, he's continuously played to opponents' size and advantages, rather than assert his own team's strengths, when constructing lineups. Many will point to Woodson's mental error earlier in December, when he failed to call a timeout after a made Washington Wizards bucket with just seconds left.
More worrisome than the coaching lapse, however, was what happened in the moments leading up to it. Bradley Beal, after burning past Beno Udrih, scooted through a wide open lane, thanks to a non-existent Knicks help D.
Postgame, Iman Shumpert spoke on what was discussed before the play: "we thought we'd make the stop," he said, according to KnicksNow, implying that Woodson never even bothered exploring a post-bucket plan.
After accepting responsibility at one point after the game, Woodson deflected it a bit, per Kenny Ducey, when he said the loss "had nothing to do with the timeout. We knew we had a foul to give ... that's where the breakdown occurred."
Deflecting blame is something Woodson is not stranger to in this season alone. Already he's placed blame on Shumpert for fouling Paul George in a game against the Indiana Pacers. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, he said that Shumpert "lazily" defended George despite holding him to mediocre numbers all night long.
Most recently, Udrih has been the one player to call out Woodson for his failures. Saying things like, "don't just be a coach, be a person," per Steve Popper, and "you can point fingers at me as much as you can, but if things don't work it's not one person's fault."
Udrih's criticisms likely don't mean much to Woodson, coming from the third-best point guard on the team, but it's just the beginning of the coach's unfair and unjust preachings of accountability being brought to light in the mainstream.
For more on this, here's a bit from Joe Flynn, who wrote a deep piece on SB Nation's Posting and Toasting, linking Woodson's methods and B.F. Skinner's Reinforcement Theory.
Here is how a responsible coach should punish his players.
Every player has to shoot on occasion—even the most offensively inept big shouldn't pass up an uncontested two-footer. The trick for coaches is to find each player's optimal shot output, and adjust your punishments accordingly.
On defense, the math is much simpler—fewer mistakes = fewer punishments; more mistakes = more punishments.
Now here is the Woodson method:
You can see why this method might not be optimal for coaching basketball...or anything, really. For the players on the red line, their playing style will inevitably devolve into a halting, hesitating mess.
Chris Herring of the Wall Street Journal compiled a list of the coach's mishaps over the last year. Here's an excerpt, though you should click the link and read the entire piece.
It is hard to pinpoint if and when the 55-year-old's coaching instincts—which favor a traditional, punishing style over the small-ball lineups with which the Knicks have thrived—were ever the reason for the Knicks' success. The team suffered in last season's playoffs against Indiana when he panicked by going away from the team's two point-guard lineup, an alignment he's used only sparingly this season even though it produced a 40-16 record over the past two seasons.
For all the roster's flaws, it is talented enough to win when it launches three-pointers and forces turnovers. But Woodson, citing bigger, stronger opponents this season, has said smaller lineups are a last resort, as if the team isn't already fighting to stay relevant. And he's continued the Knicks' costly switching strategy on defense, even though it doesn't fit the team's slow-footed personnel.
It's really tough to see any benefits to keeping Woodson around, considering the degree to which he's ruined this team's chances and hopes already.
There may be no clear replacement, and injuries may have played a factor, but that doesn't take away from the coach's blatant ignorance of what works for the team, and his failure to change his ways despite no hints of success whatsoever.