Just because a guy has a system, it doesn’t make him a good coach. Just because a guy emerges as a superstar point guard, basically out of nowhere, it doesn’t mean that coach had much, if anything to do with it. And while we know that James Dolan, owner of the New York Knicks, doesn’t love Mike D’antoni, denying him a contract extension that made the coach a lame duck this year, a rarity in sports, we hope that yesterday’s final 18 seconds of regulation did nothing if not reinforce such a decision. Because as we’ve been saying from the get go, the Knicks are in need of more than just a system. The Knicks need a coach, and have needed one ever since Jeff Van Gundy left town 11 years ago. Finding Jeremy Lin has done nothing to diminish this fact of life.
Jeremy Lin is not responsible for the Knicks loss in Boston yesterday, their 10th consecutive loss in Boston without a win since D’antoni has taken the helm. Not even with Rajon Rondo handing out 17 assists and grabbing 18 boards. Rondo had 17 assists because the guys he was passing to were open, and he had 18 rebounds because the Knicks, even with Tyson Chandler, stand around and let teams play volleyball under the rim. Perhaps Amar’e Stoudemire, D’antoni’s guy, should grab a rebound once in a while. That would be nice. Or even finish off a play around the rim, where he has missed what seems like hundreds of simple finishes this year, accounting for his nearly 10 point per game drop off in scoring average. Stoudemire’s best move of the season in fact came off the basketball court, showing immense class by buying all Garden employees breakfast on Christmas morning. Now if he could only keep a guy nine inches shorter than him off the boards here and there, or make a layup.
Jeremy Lin, in what was not his best game by any means, did still score 6 big points in the final moments of regulation, including a huge 3 down the stretch in regulation, and had a tenacious steal, that had the Knicks in position to win, until D’antoni took over. Actually, Carmelo took over first, scoring two huge buckets to give the Knicks a slim lead with 39 and again with 18 seconds left.
After the Knicks got a stop and a rebound though, D’antoni took a head scratcher time out. While he obviously made the move to get Novak, an impressive foul shooter in the game, and while Novak was fouled and made 2, there was no guarantee that he’d have even touch the ball. With the ball and the lead and with Boston out of TO’s, the move, as any novice knows, is to keep the clock moving. Instead, Boston had time to scheme, and after Novak made his free throws, Paul Pierce came down and made a giant 3 to tie the game.
Now why was Pierce even allowed to take that shot? Since putting him on the line would have all but guaranteed that the Knicks, if they could have been counted on to grab one defensive board, would have had the game locked up. The win was all but academic at that point, save for D’antoni having his club more ill prepared for a final sequence than we have ever seen any ball club.
Knick fans should not delude themselves into thinking that D’antoni had anything to do with the emergence of Jeremy Lin, the coach’s savior. Lin was all but cut, and began to get a little run only when Carmelo Anthony, worn from running the point which is not his job, went to D’antoni and suggested Lin play. In D’antoni’s banana republic where the assistants had already asked for the same thing but were ignored, D’antoni takes his lineup cues from Carmelo.
And what of the dark days before Lin’s emergence when the club ran it’s mark to 8-15, and reeked of a lack of compete? When asked for answers, the coach kept saying “let’s wait for Baron Davis to come back.”
So that’s the solution? Wait for a guy to come back who hadn’t even yet played for the team, ever? It’s really no wonder that they find new ways to lose all the time, and that they haven’t produced one win up in Boston in more than 5 years.
Despite so many cries to the contrary, when Donnie Walsh’s contract expired, James Dolan saw fit not to give him a new one, and exactly no harm was done to the club which is stronger today because of some excellent moves made by the front office sans Walsh. We sincerely hope Dolan considers that bit of history when this season is over. The next great move the Knicks make should be not retaining D’antoni, and there will be quality coaches salivating to get their hooks into this roster, which is now better than most in the league, though not without a few saddlebags still.
Especially since a 7th or 8th seeded Knicks team is unlikely to win 1 playoff game, let alone upset the Bulls or Heat. And with 2 playoff misses and 2 playoff failures on the resume in his 4 year tenure, D’antoni should be taking that resume elsewhere to find a job for next season. If he’s still here, we predict more of the same.