Throughout a Knicks game, interim head coach Mike Woodson can be found stalking the sidelines in constant motion, just inches away from the intense action on the floor.
One day after New York suffered a season ending loss to the Heat, Woodson was in a different position, seated in front of the media at Madison Square Garden Training Center to reflect and look ahead to an important offseason.
“We were able to make the playoffs and the playoffs weren’t what we expected but the fact that some of the young guys got the opportunity to experience playoff basketball, our three top guns being their first time together in Amar’e [Stoudemire], Melo [Anthony], and Tyson [Chandler], the future looks very bright in terms of where we go. So, this summer will be very pivotal for our ball club,” Woodson proudly stated.
The former Hawks head man and Pistons assistant during the 2003-04 championship run grabbed the reins for the Knicks on March 14 prior to a matchup against the Blazers. New York held an 18-24 mark at this point and faced a significant mountain to climb in order to snatch a postseason spot. The team immediately responded to Woodson’s straight forward and defensive approach to the game with six straight victories. In fact, the Knicks did not lose consecutive games until the first round of the postseason against the No. 3 seeded Heat. Woodson quickly placed New York back on the right track and sparkled with an 18-6 regular season record while capturing the No. 7 spot in the playoffs.
“You know, I was given an opportunity,” Woodson acknowledged. “Mr. Dolan, and the Knicks organization gave me an opportunity when Mike [D’Antoni] stepped down take over and it was a great opportunity for me because it had not been long from me sitting down in the hot seat. It was good to be back in it. It was great to have a group of guys that listened on the fly and tried to give me everything and the organization and the fans everything they could.”
The trials and tribulations for the Knicks were undeniable. Early in the year, Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony were in and out of the lineup with a variety of injuries. Jeremy Lin exploded on the NBA scene before being sidelined due to a knee injury just as New York was mounting a run to the postseason. Soon as Iman Shumpert found a role in the starting lineup and was a proven defensive stopper, he too endured a major knee setback. And, in the midst of a difficult playoff series against Miami, Baron Davis fell to the floor with a partial tear of the patella tendon and complete ACL and MCL tears in Game 4.
Woodson believes a full summer of workouts, a complete training camp, and some health will go a long way to pushing the Knicks towards the upper echelon of the league. Additionally, Woodson outlined specific targets for this New York team, “One of the goals is to win at home, you can’t lose games in the Garden in front of your fans. That’s got to be a place where visiting teams come in and it’s a nightmare. It’s just that simple, they don’t come here, they go somewhere else to get wins, they can’t get it here. And, we have to win our division. Those two things stand out more than anything in terms of building a championship team.”
The Knicks boast a roster filled with talent and potential but the necessary steps are directly in front of the players as they transition into offseason training. Woodson is holding the team accountable as it will attempt to achieve championship aspirations and match high expectations in 2012-13.