Mike D’Antoni Leaves, As Others Have Before And Others Will After

Photo from ejhobgin via Flickr

As Knicks owner James Dolan faced reporters for the first time since seemingly forever, it was hard to see anything but a transition period for the NBA’s worst marquee franchise. The beleaguered businessman had delivered an obligatorily stale, short statement, followed by GM Glen Grunwald introducing the team’s new head honcho, Mike Woodson. A different Mike, a different basketball philosophy, a different style of facial hair had just left after almost four years of great promise and little payoff, and now the franchise would embark on a different road. Hopefully better, possible just as bad, but different.

After all, Mike Woodson knows defense; Mike D’Antoni does not. Mike Woodson likes the dull drumming of isolation basketball, the kind that “superstar” Carmelo Anthony thrives on and yearns for; Mike D’Antoni likes the fluent song of the pick and roll, symphonic spacing at it’s side, the type of basketball that our cliché-spouting grandfather tells us is only good for teams without championship aspirations. That’s not good enough for New York. In the city where playoff games haven’t been won in a decade, the expectations declare championship or bust.

More than anything, Mike Woodson has the benefit of a future that has not yet been written, and that therefore, still has room for optimism. Mike D’Antoni has but a murky past. The New York Knicks don’t do murky pasts, not when the next messiah could be right around the corner. He really could. Don’t tell us otherwise.

Odds are, Mike Woodson’s future becomes Mike Woodson’s past very quickly. The Knicks are in no position to do anything more substantial than a respectful first round surrender, at which point a franchise attracted to glamour like a moth to a flame will have no choice but to choose the next shiny name from the never ending coaching pool over a dude with an interim tag and peculiar eyebrows.

Jerry Sloan, Phil Jackson, Stan Van Gundy after Dwight Howard fired him, a re-animated Isaac Newton – the identity of the new man or the absurdity that will surround his inevitable arrival is meaningless in the face of the role he’ll play. The same roles played by Jeremy Lin, Baron Davis, and Tyson Chandler this season, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire last season, and yes, even Mike D’Antoni, back when he was still an offensive innovator that could turn a franchise around. That hopeful savior, he who succeeded so much elsewhere that bringing him to New York is a foolproof strategy, the name that will get the press a-runnin’ and the fans a-hummin’ and the Knicks a-winnin’.

I don’t know what James Dolan was thinking as he stared into the jam packed conference room where yet another false prophet was buried, his mustache not even cold yet. He may have been wondering where it all went wrong, again. Or maybe he already knows. Maybe he can see that bringing in Mike D’Antoni, The Name, but ignoring Mike D’Antoni, The System, was just like bringing in Larry Brown, The Name, or Zach Randolph, The Name, or Eddy Curry, The Name. Maybe he realizes that the only difference between a core of Melo-Amar’e-Tyson and one of Marbury-Francis-Rose is that the glitzy players who were available for the harvest in 2011 just happened to be slightly less crazy and slightly more talented than those that were reaped in 2006.

Maybe James Dolan realizes that the true problem in New York isn’t bad luck or a vengeful commissioner or any outward influence that may or may not be biased against TEH GREATEST CITY EVAHHHHHH, but a way of thinking that extends beyond a simple Isiah Thomas. Maybe he realizes that it is him, his attraction to the penny-wise headline above the pound-wise hibernation, that adding patch over patch over patch only gives you a very patchy quilt, that the only time his team was somewhat successful was when he allowed a respected professional carry out a respectful long-term plan.

Maybe James Dolan sat in that conference room and finally got it. Maybe, just maybe, James Dolan is the savior. Even if he’s not, I bet the messiah is just around that corner. He really is. Don’t tell me otherwise.

Noam Schiller

Noam Schiller lives in Jerusalem, where he sifts through League Pass Broadband delay and insomnia in a misguided effort to watch as much basketball as possible. He usually fails miserably, but is entertained nonetheless. He prefers passing big men to rebounding guards but sees no reason why he should have to compromise on any of them.