“The Knicks are gonna get swept.”
That was a conversation I had with my friend before the series started. I called the sweep, even though I didn’t want to. The Knicks weren’t ready to handle the Celtics. And they still aren’t, not yet. But firing Mike D’Antoni isn’t going to make them better.
If you’re a Knicks fan, you probably want D’Antoni gone. That shouldn’t happen. I know a lot of Knicks fans, as well as general basketball fans, who want D’Antoni’s head. I was one of them. But I have seen the light and getting rid of him or GM Donnie Walsh would not make the Knicks better.
“But dude, what about defense? We need a coach that preaches defense.”
Okay, who’s going to coach the Knicks? Mike Brown? Sure he’s defensive minded, but let’s not forget the fact that he was attacked for his lack of attention to offense. Mark Jackson even said he'd rather have great offense than great defense. If your team can defend, that's great, but if you're team can't score then you're pretty much screwed. Not to mention the fact he had a certain 6’8", 250 lbs, two-time MVP leading his team.
Anyway, this goes to my theory that coaching in the NBA is an overrated position. Think of all the coaches, and ask any casual fan to name five not including Phil, Doc, or Gregg. Heck, I’m not even sure I can name five without thinking hard about it. Most coaches barely keep their job for more than five years. Few coaches have an actual impact on the team, much less stay around for several years. Most teams are run by their best player. They set the standard and others follow. The coach just guides them.
Of course there are the elite coaches such as Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich and Jerry Sloan when he was on the Jazz. Yes, I’m not forgetting Doc, but he isn’t an elite coach. At least not yet. Don’t try and tell me otherwise.
Before three Hall of Famers fell into his lap, he was on the hot seat pretty much every year in Boston. His GM just managed to give him what he needed to be respected. Anybody can get deep into the postseason with three Hall of Famers; even Vinny Del Negro.
D’Antoni’s one of the more respected coaches in the league for his offense which this Knicks team is built to run. Firing him and bring a different coach aboard would be akin to getting rid of a boat’s captain and bringing in some nobody who doesn’t know a single thing about the boat. Let D’Antoni run this team for a full year and see what he can get out of it.
He’s got two of the best scorers in the league, something good’s bound to happen. Also, D’Antoni knows STAT’s strengths and weaknesses. They been together how many years? Just let D’Antoni do his thing. Besides Knicks fans have waited this long. What’s another year?
Firing D’Antoni would mean that the Knicks would have to change their run and gun identity. They would have to change who they are as a team and that could mess with their chemistry. No consistency is a bad thing. The Knicks have already pretty much scrapped their entire team from the previous year. They need consistency to help find who they are as a team and firing the coach would destroy that.
“All right, but we had two All-Stars and we got swept. D’Antoni can’t coach these guys to a championship.”
The Knicks pretty much had one and a half All-Stars in the playoffs since Stoudemire hurt his back. But anyway, this goes back to the team’s chemistry issues. They still haven’t clicked completely but they can do it by this time next year as long as no major changes take place. The Knicks need to improve their bench with role players who can help STAT and Melo out (really, they keep Jared Jeffries and Shawne Williams but let Anthony Randolph and Corey Brewer go?). They need guys who know their role and aren’t afraid to take that shot (looking at you Mr. Jeffries, when you could’ve won Game 2 but decided to pass it to Garnett).
The Knicks have some good players now, but they just need to know that they’re there to help. STAT and Melo can take over games, but they need assistance. This is where guys like Douglas, Fields and Billups come in.
The only problem is that Billups still thinks he’s Mr. Big Shot. Sure he’ll make them sometimes, but I’ve been watching him closely since the FIBA Championship and even more once he became a Knick. He just doesn’t make those shots anymore. Take a reality check Chauncey: your time’s done but you can still help as a mentor to Douglas and assisting STAT and Melo.
Anyway, the big thing that the Knicks need to improve on is their identity as a team. Keeping D’Antoni will help this as well as improving the bench (Jeffries!!!). Chemistry is big in basketball. The Knicks can’t go tinkering with the team every year just because things didn’t go smoothly.
This team is still young. Give them some time to find themselves and maybe this time next year, we’ll all see better things.