32 years ago, the Knicks drafted a young guard-forward out of Indiana with the No. 12 overall pick. Fast forward to March 14, 2012 and that same man will now grace the sidelines for New York as the interim head coach.
Mike Woodson spent six years as the head man in Atlanta and helped the 2003-04 Detroit Pistons capture an NBA Championship. While providing a defensive-minded direction in an assistant coach role in Motown, the Pistons were a lockdown squad that upset a star studded Lakers cast in the NBA Finals.
In 2004, the Indiana native took the reins in Atlanta for a franchise that was searching for a resurrection after a 28-54 season. Despite a dip in his first year, the Hawks quickly ascended over the next three seasons and appeared in the playoffs in 2008, 2009, and reached the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 2010.
Prior to the start of the 2011-12 season, Woodson was added to Mike D’Antoni’s staff in New York, completing the full circle from his first steps on an NBA floor. On Wednesday afternoon, Woodson accepted the interim head coaching position after senior vice president, basketball operations and interim general manager Glen Grunwald announced that it had been mutually decided that D’Antntoni was no longer the head coach of the Knicks.
“I’ve known Woody for a very long time, he’s another good coach, another great guy and I think our team is in good hands and I look forward to working with him too,” Grunwald explained.
With the bright lights shining on the Knicks franchise in the media capital of the world, Woodson confidently stated his objectives to the massive group of reports at Madison Square Garden on Sunday. “There’s still a lot at stake here, there’s a lot that needs to be done in terms of winning basketball games and I understand that. Expectations are high. We knew that coming into the season and that’s the only way it should be.”
New York responded on Wednesday night by blitzing the Blazers from the opening tip. The team scored 43 fourth quarter points, hit 16 three-pointers, shot 53.8 percent from the floor, and forced 27 turnovers that turned into 31 points. Carmelo Anthony set the tone in the first quarter with eight of his 16 points as he believes this is a crucial final month of the season for the Knicks.
“We all know what type of coach Coach Woodson is. All he wants us to do is play hard. Being one of the leaders of the team, I told him to hold me accountable. That is one of the biggest things for this team…for Coach Woodson to hold everyone accountable,” Anthony acknowledged.
The playoff race is heading up and the Knicks will control their destiny in terms of capturing a spot and making some noise in the Eastern Conference. With Woodson at the helm, defense, effort, and execution are at the top of his priorities for his squad. Interesting enough, those were the same qualities that made him a first round draft pick for the Knicks 32 years ago.