The entire Knicks coaching staff was dismissed, which the team's public relations Twitter account announced Monday:
The organization quickly followed with a statement from team president Phil Jackson:
I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Woodson and his entire staff. The coaches and players on this team had an extremely difficult 2013-14 season, and blame should not be put on one individual. But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond.
Everyone in this franchise owes a great deal of gratitude to what Mike and his staff have done. We wish him the best.
Woodson saw his squad endure a nine-game losing streak to fall to 3-13 early on, then attempt to battle back, never gaining much traction. It was a constant fight to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference postseason race, which is ridiculous considering the caliber of talent on the team's roster.
Given the inconsistency and frustrating product on the hardwood for one of the Association's most storied franchises, it appeared it was only a matter of time before Woodson got the pink slip.
Legendary coach Jackson was named team president in March, and he clearly didn't feel Woodson was the right man to lead New York back to the NBA's promised land.
But Woodson implied Jackson didn't get in his way as he tried to coach down the stretch of the regular season, per an April 9 report by the New York Daily News' Peter Botte:
Phil, I gather, he’s kind of staying out of the way and letting me do my thing in terms of trying to get this team in the playoffs. That’s OK. I’m sure when the time comes he and I will have a chance to sit down and talk and see where we are.
But first things first, guys, make no mistake about it, we’re in a playoff race trying to get this eighth spot. That’s where everybody’s focus should be.
The following day, Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported Knicks owner James Dolan stopped general manager Steve Mills from firing Woodson in multiple instances:
Mills, according to a source, was prepared to make a coaching change on several occasions but didn’t either because the Knicks went on a winning streak or because he was overruled by Garden chairman James Dolan. Now, Jackson is in charge of picking the coach as well as deciding Mills’ role with the franchise.
In guiding New York to a 54-28 record in his first full season at the helm in the Big Apple in 2013, Woodson led the franchise to its first division championship since 1993-94. However, the Indiana Pacers disposed of the Knicks 4-2 in the conference semifinals.
Despite falling short, there was still hope the Knicks could take a bigger step forward this season. The 56-year-old coach lost his grip of the team early on, though, and did not do enough in the front office's eyes to warrant extending his stay in New York.
Isola felt Woodson was the culprit for the team's shortcomings, but everyone at the top deserved criticism:
An eight-game winning streak in March and a 12-3 stretch got New York back into the thick of the postseason race, but consecutive losses at the beginning of April to the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat ended that.
Woodson turned around what was a putrid Atlanta Hawks team in his first stint as a head coach, leading them to three straight postseason appearances before his contract expired. He couldn't match that this year in New York, and it cost him his job.
It remains to be seen if he'll get another chance as a head coach, and the market is especially hard to judge with June's draft approaching. With so many teams positioning themselves for top lottery picks, it is even harder to forecast where each head coach stands.
At the very least, teams could do a lot worse in terms of looking at Woodson as a prospective assistant.
As for what lies ahead for the Knicks, Jackson will be able to attract top coaching talent to New York. This is one of the Association's most distinguished franchises, and turning the Knicks around and restoring them to prominence will attract a slew of elite candidates.
In fact, according to George Willis of the New York Post, Steve Kerr, 48, "absolutely expects" an offer to coach the Knicks, and Willis' piece was published before Woodson was fired.
Kerr played in the league for 15 years and is a five-time NBA champion (three while Jackson was coaching in Chicago). He previously served as an analyst for TNT and worked with the Phoenix Suns as their president and general manager.
There is still plenty of uncertainty ahead regardless of who is coaching in New York, though.
Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani are all set to be free agents in 2015, which comprises most of the major foundational pieces on the roster.
The good news is the East is weak at the moment, so there is room for New York to improve in 2014-15 and set the stage for a big push back toward the top of the NBA hierarchy thereafter.
Certainly, Anthony's decision in free agency will set the course for the 2014-15 season and beyond.
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