When Donnie Walsh was hired to be President of the New York Knicks, It was almost a given that former Coach Isiah Thomas was in a "lame duck" situation. The question turned from, "would Isiah Thomas stay in the organization?", to "Who will be the next coach of the New York Knicks?" Mark Jackson was the consensus choice and the fan's choice. Jackson was a former Knicks Point Guard, who was originally drafted by the team. He grew up in New York City and is a St. John's Alum. He is a guy who would get the most out of his players' abilities. The only knock against Jackson was that he had no previous coaching experience. That was probably the reason why Walsh didn't offer him the job as head coach.
The Knicks only chose D'Antoni when it was reported that he was the favorite for the Chicago Bulls coaching position. Mike D'Antoni began his head coaching career overseas in Milan, where his team made the playoffs every season during the seven seasons he coached there. He also won a championship and a league title.
His first NBA head coaching job was during the 1998-1999 season with the Denver Nuggets. D'Antoni then became an assistant coach on Gregg Popovich's staff in San Antonio. After another coaching stint in Italy, D'Antoni was hired as an assistant with the Phoenix Suns. After then Head Coach Frank Johnson was issued his walking papers, D'Antoni was back as an NBA head coach. Since that time, D'Antoni's teams narrowly missed reaching the NBA Finals twice and averaged between 55-60 wins during his five seasons as the Suns' Head Coach.
While his credentials are impressive, was Mike D'Antoni the right man for the job? D'Antoni system is an up-tempo, fast break, offensive coaching style that treats defense as a secondary need. The only players currently on the Knicks roster that fit that style are, David Lee, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, and Renaldo Balkman. In order for D'Antoni to succeed in New York, the roster needs a major renovation, which the Knicks are prepared to go through. Trading high priced players for expiring contracts, for instance Stephon Marbury for 76ers Point Guard Andre Miller, is what the Knicks have to do in order for them to get under the salary cap in 2010, which would enable them to sign either LeBron James or Dwayne Wade as free agents. The Knicks have to also address the feud in the frontcourt between Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry. A top five pick in the NBA Draft could almost certainly help them.
The Knicks obviously made a significant upgrade at the Head Coaching position with Mike D'Antoni. But the Knicks have to hire a defensive minded assistant to combat the head coach's and the team's defensive woes, for instance hiring former Knicks assistant on Jeff Van Gundy's staff and current Celtics assistant Thom Thibodeau or hiring Patrick Ewing. D'Antoni give the Knicks instant credibility and the first step in a long rebuilding process to come. The goal next season for the Knicks should be to win their first playoff game since 2001 and gain the #8 seed in the East and slowly make progress each year. The Knicks could compete in the feeble Eastern Conference if the rebuilding process goes according to plan.