New York Knicks Have Officially Checked Out on Mike Woodson

Joe FlynnContributor IFebruary 28, 2014

USA Today

As terrible as Mike Woodson has been at coaching the New York Knicks this season, he still has a knack for providing unintentionally hilarious quotes.

This time, he was talking about what to expect from recent acquisitions Earl Clark and Shannon Brown before Thursday's game against the Miami Heat, per Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick:

With all due respect, Mr. Woodson, everyone in the NBA knows what the Knicks are doing, night in and night out. They are going to switch every screen, double-team every big and isolate Carmelo Anthony whenever possible.

They are not going to run offensive sets out of the timeout, and they won't be prepared when another team does. They are going to leave the opponent's best three-point shooter wide-open in the corner.

They are not going to go for a two-for-one at the end of quarters, and they will generally play the last few possessions of the game as if the shot clock had never been invented.

Jason DeCrow/Associated Press

Thursday's 108-82 loss to the Heat had most of the symptoms of a typical Woodson-coached fiasco. The Knicks switched so often that it seemed like Raymond Felton and Pablo Prigioni guarded LeBron James for most of the game.

The team spent more time pointing at one another than actually playing defense. 

The Knicks appeared listless for most of the game, especially when the Heat dropped the hammer on them with a 23-3 run in the third quarter. The team is merely going through the motions at this point.


Woodson's Perfect Game

For longtime observers of the Mike Woodson method, there was a wonderful symmetry in Thursday's loss to Miami.

The Knicks started off the 2012-13 season with a bang, crushing these very same Miami Heat 104-84. It was the start of a 54-win season that was like manna from heaven for long-suffering fans in New York.

But that first win also came more by accident than design.

A preseason injury to power forward Amar'e Stoudemire forced Woodson to play Carmelo Anthony at power forward. The magic that sprang from that small-ball lineup (a third overall offensive rating, a league record for made three-pointers) never really sat well with Woodson, but the team was playing too well for him to make many changes.

He finally got his chance during the Knicks' six-game loss to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Even with Anthony and Tyson Chandler playing injured—and despite unsuccessfully experimenting with bigger lineups in that series—Woodson used the excuse of size to explain away the loss, per The Wall Street Journal's Chris Herring:

Then there was the misguided decision to scrap the small lineup in a Game 4 playoff loss to Indiana, in which Woodson, disappointed by the lack of rebounding, swapped in bruiser Kenyon Martin for guard Pablo Prigioni, who’d been the team’s most efficient postseason player to that point.

Nevertheless, Woodson largely attributes that postseason series defeat to not having enough frontcourt size.

“When we played Indiana, I think we learned an important lesson there” about the limitations of the smaller lineup, he said in November.

Now, the Knicks were unlikely to recapture all of 2012-13's success, but Woodson's decision to completely overhaul the rotation, giving major minutes to "big" defensive zeroes like Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani, was indefensible even at the time.

And what happened to the Knicks Thursday night? Well, they were trailing by only four points in the third quarter when Woodson decided to bring in Stoudemire.

The Heat went on to outscore the Knicks by 19 points in the 6:30 that Stoudemire spent on the court in that third quarter. By the end of the period, Miami held a 23-point lead, and the game was effectively over.

And how exactly did the Heat beat up the Knicks in those first three quarters? Did they brutalize New York up front, as in Woodson's nightmares? 

Of course not. In the first three quarters, Miami had zero second-chance points on zero offensive rebounds. None. Nada. Zilch.

The Miami Heat beat Mike "The East is Big" Woodson using the same small-ball lineups they used to win back-to-back titles; the same lineups they used to beat the Pacers in last year's Eastern Conference Finals.

It was the Knicks who adjusted, moving away from the kinds of lineups that helped them go 3-1 against Miami last year.


Too Little, Too Late

Late in the game, Skolnick made an interesting parallel between Woodson and former NBA head coach Rick Pitino, who was also fired after a game against the Heat in Miami:

But why would the Knicks fire Woodson now? Even if they believed his dismissal could shake up the team, the Knicks are 5.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with only 24 left to play.

They are finished.

To fire him now would be little more than a sick joke—patronizing the legions of fans who have been begging for the coach's dismissal since early in the season.

If anything, the Knicks should keep Woodson around simply for his ridiculous press conferences. His quotes are usually the best part of game days.

Or perhaps the front office could keep the coach on with an eye toward tanking for a 2015 draft pick, as this diabolical Twitter genius suggested:

The 2013-14 Knicks are Mike Woodson's team, for better or (much) worse. He drove this boat into the iceberg, and like any good captain, he should go down with his ship.

One can only hope the franchise will put a little bit of thought into its next coaching hire.