The Time Has Come for New York Knicks to Fire Mike Woodson

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2014

Goodbye, Mike Woodson.

There is nothing that can save Woodson's post with the New York Knicks now. Nothing. Winning 54 games and the Atlantic Division in 2012-13 didn't buy him this kind of time. It didn't create undying patience.

The Knicks are 20-32 after falling 106-101 at home against the Western Conference-worst Sacramento Kings, 2.5 games outside an Eastern Conference playoff race that caters to the incapable and unequipped. These Knicks—Woodson's Knicks—are neither. They're worse, having officially hit rock bottom. Again.

You know what? Scratch that. The Knicks haven't hit rock bottom. Saying that would be an insult to rock bottom, a typically reviled venue the the Knicks are making look like a prestigious vacation spot.

All of this has happened under the watch of Woodson, who has long overstayed a 54-win welcome. After what was seen from the Knicks Wednesday night, after what's been seen from them all season, it's time for him to go. Now.

Waiting isn't an option. As ESPN's Marc Stein points out, it used to be, but additional failures must force owner James Dolan's hand.

To be sure and fair, and ingenuous to the Knicks' situation, showing Woodson the door won't solve everything. Problems with this team start at the top, where Dolan and general manager Steve Mills remain perched, pulling strings and plotting the impractical, making sport out of abject decision-making. 

Just as Woodson isn't the owner or general manager, he's not Carmelo Anthony or any other player either. He couldn't knock down those open shots for 'Melo in overtime on Wednesday night; he couldn't will any of those wide-open bombs in a Feb. 3 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks into the basket.

Believing Woodson is the only one at fault is shortsighted and impulsive, and inane. The Knicks are a flawed product from top to bottom, and flawed products lose.

But they shouldn't be losing this much. They aren't this bad. They aren't 10th-place-in-the-baseborn-Eastern Conference, might-actually-miss-the-playoffs awful. Well actually, they are, even though they shouldn't be. Much of that is on Woodson, who knows he's failing this team.

"This year, for me, has been kind of a disaster from a coaching standpoint .. and trying to get players to play at a high level," Woodson said previously, per ESPN New York's Ian Begley.

That's the most candid Woodson has been all year. At every other turn, there's been deflection and excuses, and displaced blame.

Following the loss to Sacramento was no different; before the loss to Sacramento was no different. Woodson could be heard fielding questions, parroting the same feeble-minded answers he has all season, per The Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring:

Injuries aren't an excuse. Not more than 50 games into the season. Not when you house a top-10 superstar generally playing out of his mind.

Not when, as Herring points out, you're statistically better when dealing with injuries:

Poor rotations are on Woodson. I'm hesitant to even call what he employs "rotations," because that would imply they're consistent and predictable. But they're not.

It wasn't until Andrea Bargnani went Air Bargs that Woodson fully embraced small ball; it wasn't until then that he started to warm up to the dynamic that helped his team win 54 games one year ago. Why did it take that long? Because the East is big, man (it's not).

Yet there Woodson was after the loss to Sacramento, having used big lineups down the stretch, blaming an inability to run small on New York's transgressions, per ESPN New York's Ohm Youngmisuk:

Hypocrisy at its finest, folks.

Woodson previously ran big lineups aground before being forced to space the floor more. Now he's blaming losses on the very ideals he shunned for most of the season. All right, then.

When he's not citing injuries or poorly chosen lineups that he himself chose, Woodson prefers to direct all attention toward his favorite scapegoats: point guards.

Not too long ago, it was Beno Udrih who was being blamed for J.R. Smith's decision to shoot an ill-advised three. These days, Raymond Felton is the one he unloads on.

If only there was something or someone who could control the amount of time Felton spends on the floor. If only there was someone who could stop the erratic-shooting, defense-averse, clutch-time yawning floor general from playing over 30 minutes a night. 

If only Woodson would do his job.

The point guard situation isn't ideal, but Woodson has another option—Pablo Prigioni, the 36-year-old sophomore who, unlike Felton, knows how to run an offense. 

Prigioni vs. Felton
Off. Rtg.Def. Rtg.Net Rtg.eFG%
Knicks with Prig107.7104.92.852.2
Knicks with Felton104.4104.8-.550.4

Numbers don't lie, and the numbers tell us Priggy Smalls is the (much) better option. New York's offense is far better with him on floor while its defense isn't any worse off.

Prigioni wasn't on the floor against Sacramento when the Knicks needed his playmaking most. Woodson went down in a haze of Felton and inexplicably big lineups instead.

At one point, for a brief second in overtime, Anthony was at shooting guard. That actually happened. Woodson, in true Woodson fashion, was actually prepared to run with Jeremy Tyler, Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, Anthony and Felton. 

Utilizing multiple bigs would make some sense if the Knicks were defending well. Skilled behemoths typically help slow down opposing offenses by being more versed rim-protectors and help defenders. The thing is, New York isn't a good defensive team or even close to a good defensive team. Its switch-heavy system makes for wide-open lanes and jumpers off pick-and-rolls.

There is no rhyme or reason to what the Knicks do defensively, yet Woodson keeps with it. Never mind that the Knicks rank 24th in defensive efficiency—keep switching. Switch, switch, switchity switch-switch. Switchers for life. Switchers until the end of time.

That bothers people, maybe everybody. It has to. Woodson was brought in as an assistant in 2011-12 to teach defense, because he's a defensive specialist—when really, he isn't.

Only one Woodson-associated team has ever finished in the top 10 of defensive efficiency. One. That's it. 

The team that did wasn't even fully his. The 2011-12 Knicks ranked fifth in defensive efficiency when Woodson was an assistant for half the season. 

One team can only withstand so much blatant incompetency on the sideline before admitting defeat. Player energy isn't entirely on Woodson. Missed shots aren't on him, either. Poor rotations, nonexistent accountability and porous defensive sets are all on him. Much of what the Knicks are going through is on him, on his failure to adequately do his job.

Unlike many of their other imperfections, the Knicks can control this. Dolan cannot will a Rajon Rondo trade into existence, but he can sever ties with the man who has coached New York into a slaughter.

"I didn’t expect us to be in the situation that we’re in right now," Anthony said after the loss to Sacramento, per The Associated Press (via The Washington Post). "If somebody would have told us that before the season, I’d have put any amount of money that they were lying. But we’re in this situation right now and we’ve got to fight through it."

Salvaging this season starts with firing Woodson, who, while not solely at fault, has only helped the Knicks retrogress into a crumbling power staring down a near-hopeless future.


Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and (subscription required) unless otherwise indicated.


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