This season, many Knicks fans have been calling for the head of our polarizing coach, Mike D'Antoni. His system, they claim, makes it too difficult for teams to rebound and play defense, as they are too focused on getting on the break and scoring in large quantities. These disgruntled fans also say that he does not use his bench adequately and that he does not develop young talent, a la Anthony Randolph. While these claims may have truth to them, I think that it is too early to get rid of Mike, and there are multiple reasons for me believing this.
Mike D'Antoni, the man himself
Two of the greatest scorers in the league
Love or hate Mike D'Antoni, looking at his offense from a completely objective view, you have to admit that it is the best that this league has to offer. It is simply a thing of beauty to watch the ball swing smoothly around the perimeter and find an open Shawne Williams for a three, or to see Melo hit Amar'e with a pass as he streaks down the lane. This group of players have only been together since late February, and the offense already looks fluid as the ball movement has improved tremendously. Not only is this offense extremely difficult to defend, but it creates one on one situations for both Amar'e and Carmelo with constant pick and rolls, ball movement, and slashing through the paint. In these one on one situations, there is not a single defender in the NBA that can stop either Stat or Melo. This gives the Knicks a huge advantage when utilizing their two superstars. Also, this offense has compelled Melo to work on his three point shot, making him deadly from beyond the arc. This addition to his game, if further refined, will make him by far the most complete offensive player in the league with his arsenal of postups, drives to the rim, pullup jumpshots, and now a three point shot.
The Knicks collapsing in on Rajon Rondo
The main complaint people have about Mike D'Antoni is his lack of emphasis on defense when compared to the importance he places on offense. I do not see such a big problem with this, as the Knicks have played great defense for the most part against the Celtics throughout this playoff series. However, it is a very easy problem for them to fix if they desire to. All they need to do is hire a defensive minded assistant coach, such as Mike Brown. Coach Brown was often criticized in Cleveland for only coaching defense and paying little to no attention to offense. With a mindset like that, Mike Brown would be the perfect assistant to take care of D'Antoni's defensive woes. Hopefully they decide to do something like this, so that Mike can focus on what he does best: his patented offensive system.
The new faces of the Knicks
This season looked like it would be the first one that Mike D'Antoni would be able to coach the same team throughout the entire season. Then, the blockbuster trade for Melo came about, and that changed everything. These guys have barely been playing together for a few months, and they are already starting to look like a well-oiled machine, despite the limited time to learn the intricacies of D'Antoni's offense. The true test of how well his offensive system really works will come next season, since then he will have had a few months of games, including the playoffs, and an offseason to work with this group. If they come out of the gate looking like a contender in the East, then it's obvious that we are going to have to keep him. Don't be surprised if that is what ends up happening. This offense is too potent and the Knicks have too many stars for them not to be in contention for the top 4 spots in the East next season.
Melo coming up with a rebound
Many people like to place the blame for New York's rebounding woes on Mike D'Antoni, when, in reality, it is because there is no true center on the roster. Without a big man to anchor the paint, it makes it much more difficult for the Knicks to secure rebounds, and as a result they have to work much harder than other teams just to keep up in the rebounding department. Hopefully this will be rectified by Donnie Walsh (if his contract is extended) during the offseason. If we can add a true center, such as Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan, or Marc Gasol, then we will instantly be thrust into the upper echelon of the East, right alongside Miami, Boston, and Chicago.
Mike D'Antoni has a lot of postseason experience
Many people forget that Mike D'Antoni has tons of postseason experience from his days in Phoenix. While he was there, they were pretty much in the conversation for winning a title every single year. Although his Suns never got over the hump to win a title, the years he spent in Phoenix gave him valuable experience in the playoffs, which gives him an advantage over many other coaches.
Overall, he is too valuable to let go
As you can see, most of the issues that Knicks fans have with Mike D'Antoni are either unfounded or can be fixed quickly and easily. This alone is reason to keep him, but his offense only adds to that because of its high-powered and efficient nature. These Knicks need someone that keeps the ball moving with both Melo and Amar'e on the same team, and I don't think that they are going to be able to afford Chris Paul, so why not stick with what works and stop trying to tear down D'Antoni every chance we get?