The players’ words speak volumes about the newly inked and now official head coach of the New York Knicks. On Friday evening, the historic franchise announced that Mike Woodson would take the reins with a multi-year contract extension and it’s easy to understand the reasoning just by listening to members of the 2011-12 roster.
“Coach Woodson is a player-coach,” Amar’e Stoudemire explained. “He is a guy that played in the NBA for several years. He knows what we go through as players, which is the first step for us relating to a coach. Secondly, he has a great game plan as far as offense and defense. He articulates what he wants on both ends of the court and as players; we tend to gravitate to that. So, if we can just continue to build with him and let him lead us and follow his game plan, we will be a solid team.”
When the squad faced extreme adversity in the middle of a truncated season, Woodson quickly spearheaded an admirable run to the postseason. The former Knick posted an 18-6 regular season and led New York to the second-best record in the NBA over the final 24 games of the year.
Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony described his relationship with the new head man after a playoff practice at Madison Square Garden Training Center, “It’s been fun. He’s been challenging me and holding me responsible for being one of the leaders of this team. You know, I accepted that role and I stood up to the challenge and told him, this is something I want to do, this is something I want to be, which is the leader of this team and he gave me that role and I accepted it and ran with it.”
Woodson’s style is a mix of old school and a modern approach to the game. While holding players accountable, he also jumps in the trenches, never escaping criticism for his coaching decisions. Under his watch, the Knicks ranked fifth in the NBA in points allowed and eighth in opponents’ field goal percentage. Woodson is regarded as a defensive specialist but New York’s offense maintained steam during his tenure despite a myriad of injuries to key players, including Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Jeremy Lin. In fact, Anthony exploded in the month of April by averaging 29.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game and capturing Player of the Month honors.
Lin believes New York is heading in the right direction with Woodson running the show, “There was a lot of room for creativity. But, it started on the defensive end, getting rebounds and pushing the ball and I definitely think it can work.”
With Stoudemire, Anthony, and Lin all healthy, Woodson’s unit was 6-1 and cruising before Lin was sidelined due to a knee injury that eventually ended his season. Additionally, the team did not suffer consecutive losses until the playoffs when New York fell to the team playing for a spot in the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat.
Tyson Chandler is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Shumpert was named to the All-Rookie First Team, and Chandler and Anthony were selected to the NBA All-Third Team on Thursday afternoon. The individual success is a sign of the extreme talent on the roster and the head coach understands the importance of jumping out of the first round and into contender status in rapid fashion.
“I’m very humbled and honored to continue coaching the franchise where I started my NBA career,” Woodson declared. “Our goal is to build off the success we had at the end of last season and to continue our quest of bringing an NBA Championship to Madison Square Garden.”
32 years after the Knicks selected him in the 1980 NBA Draft, Woodson now leads the orange and blue into a new era.