What is the first thing that a basketball fan thinks of when looking at the Phoenix Suns under Coach Mike D’Antoni?
One might assume it would be fast-paced, run-and-gun basketball.
What is the first thing that a basketball fan thinks of when looking at the New York Knicks of the Isaiah Thomas era?
One might assume it would be the idea of defense as an afterthought.
What sense does it make for the New York Knicks’ new basketball guru, Donnie Walsh, to bring in a guy known for being an offensive-minded coach to a team that gave up 103.5 PPG and got outscored by 6.6 PPG in 2007-2008? To make matters worse, the Suns gave up 105 PPG under D’Antoni during the most recent regular season campaign.
Sure D’Antoni was a trendy choice. He has a background in the European style of play that the United States can’t seem to decipher. The Suns have been a perennial playoff attendee and have been feared enough to be picked as a potential finalist no matter how well the Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, or Los Angeles Lakers have played.
However, the Suns have never reached the finals under D’Antoni—despite names like Steve Nash, Shaquille O’Neal, Grant Hill, Amare Stoudemire, Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell, and Shawn Marion gracing the pages of the yearbooks during the D’Antoni era.
Really, has D’Antoni done much coaching with these guys, or has he simply let Steve Nash run the show over the last handful of seasons and merely “managed” the team?
Sure, making the playoffs would be a vast improvement over the brand of “basketball” that New York has had to witness over the last few seasons—but D’Antoni has nothing on his resume to prove that he can take this team back to the dominance they enjoyed in the 1990s.
Walsh and D’Antoni will have their hands full trying to undo the mess that Thomas made of the Knicks, which may give D’Antoni a free pass for the first year of his tenure. But don’t be surprised to see yet another head coach in New York by the fall of 2010.