As expected, the “Zen Master” is bringing about changes to the New York Knicks franchise.
Team President Phil Jackson fired the entire team’s coaching staff – including embattled head coach Mike Woodson – late Monday morning. The news comes less than a week after the Knicks wrapped up arguably their most disappointing season in franchise history. Fresh off a 54-win season that included an Atlantic Division title and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, Knicks owner James Dolan placed huge expectations on the team to dethrone the defending champion Miami Heat while competing for a World Championship.
However, the team stumbled out of the gates with a 3-13 start that grew progressively worse during the season. Despite a late rally in the final three weeks of the campaign, New York came up short in catching the Atlanta Hawks for the 8th and final playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference. They closed out the season with a pair of victories over the crosstown rival Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors. Ironically, both of those teams are competing against each other in the first round of this year’s playoffs.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Woodson and his entire staff,” Jackson said in a press release. “The coaches and players on this team had an extremely difficult 2013-14 season, and blame should not be put on one individual. But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond.” “Everyone in this franchise owes a great deal of gratitude to what Mike and his staff have done,” Jackson added. “We wish him the best.”
Rumors began swirling towards the end of the 2013 calendar year on whether or not Woodson would be relieved of his duties because of the poor play and lack of aggression for a team that boasted the defending Sixth Man of the Year in J.R. Smith and the league’s leading scorer in Carmelo Anthony. Anthony announced midway through the season that he would become a free agent at the end of the season, giving Knicks fans another reason to worry about whether or not their star player would return and help the franchise end a 41-year title-less drought or take his talents to another team where he could win that coveted championship he’s been chasing for 11 seasons.
The hiring of 11-time NBA champion Phil Jackson as the team’s new President last month was believed to be part of a huge effort in helping persuade Anthony to consider staying in Manhattan.
But after dropping to 37-45 this season, many wondered if ‘Melo would want to continue his career with a team that is shrouded in disarray. Maybe the hiring of a head coach who Jackson feels has the skillset to turn the team around in a hurry could change his mind.
For many Knick fans, however, the hope was that Jackson himself wouldn’t mind taking up the head coaching offer and perhaps that would have likely sealed the deal for Anthony to return and learn under a Hall-of-Famer who helped the likes of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal win championships. Not to mention Jackson won a pair while a member of the team during its heyday in the 1970’s.
But according to a report in the New York Post over the weekend, former Bulls guard, Suns general manager and current TNT NBA analyst Steve Kerr is the front runner for the position and if offered, he will likely accept it.
It’s all speculation for now, but having Kerr in the mix would be a boost to a team that digressed both offensively and defensively during the past season. If hired, Kerr’s arrival is just one of several major moves the Knicks still need to make as part of their rebuilding process. The 2015 off season has been widely talked about as the time where many of the league’s top players will become free agents. New York is hoping to make a splash by preserving some cap space and eliminating a number of hefty contracts from the books, including Amar’e Stoudemire, to land some All-Star caliber players in building a team that can annually compete for a championship.
In parts of three seasons with the Knicks, Woodson compiled an overall record of 109-79 that included two consecutive postseason berths along with last season’s Atlantic Division title – the team’s first in 19 years. Kerr, meanwhile, is a 5-time NBA champion, winning 3 straight championships with the Chicago Bulls from 1996 to 1998 and two with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999 and 2003. After taking on his current role as an analyst for TNT’s NBA coverage, he left in 2007 to serve as a general manager for the Phoenix Suns for three years before returning to Turner Sports for the 2010-11 season.
W| By Michael Lyle @Lyle0308 via @inspirelssports