It was just a few weeks ago when the New York Knicks decided they needed to make a coaching change. After Mike D’Antoni reportedly lost the team and the Knicks continued to be one of the more disappointing teams in the NBA, Mike Woodson took over for D’Antoni. The move might’ve saved the Knicks season and kept their playoff hopes alive. New York is 9-3 in the 12 games that Woodson has been coaching and despite dealing with injuries to Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire, New York still has a stranglehold on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. As the calendar flips to April, the schedule gets tougher for New York. Starting the year the expectations were higher and the goals were bigger, but now they have to settle for hoping to just get into the postseason and if they play the way they have under Woodson’s watch, the Knicks have a shot.
Mike Woodson joined ESPN Radio in New York on the Michael Kay Show to talk about trying to rebound after a fourth quarter collapse the other night, whether he thinks the team can still make the playoffs, if he plans on continuing to run the offense through Carmelo Anthony with the injuries the team is dealing with, on the mindset of the team through all the injuries, if he has thought about what he needs to do to be retained as coach following the season, and whether he has thought about how devastating it would be to miss the playoffs.
On trying to rebound after a fourth quarter collapse the other night:
“Well we would like to think not because that was kind of uncharacteristic of how we have been playing in this 12 game stretch and even all year. Under Mike we hadn’t given up 40 points in a quarter like that. That was strange and after going back and revealing the tape last night on the plane it wasn’t as bad as I thought standing there and trying to coach through it. There’s still a lot of room for improvement. We showed the fourth quarter today to the team and showed them how well we played for three quarters and how you can’t have slippage like that coming down the stretch, especially when you’re playing on the road. You can pretty much get away with that at home because you’re comfortable, you’ve got the fans backing you, but when you’re on the road you have to almost play a perfect game and we did for three quarters but we just let it slip away. As a coach I have to help them, help them get over that hurdle.”
Whether he thinks the team can still make the playoffs:
“Absolutely I do and I say that because we wouldn’t even be in this position as we started this process 12 games ago they could’ve thrown in the towel 12 games ago but they haven’t and they’re playing for a purpose right now, to make the playoffs. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. Being the head coach it is my job to keep them comfortable and playing at a high level and know the urgency of where we stand right now because it’s a race. Philly is right there and we’re all bunched up. I’m just anxious and curious to see who’s going to survive it. I’d like to put my money on the Knicks because I think we have a legitimate shot and we control our own destiny. I’m not looking past any teams. Orlando is the next team up for us and I can’t think about Chicago and the teams that are coming. Orlando is right there, it’s a team we played well at home against. We have to go back and get a win.”
On running the offense through Carmelo Anthony:
“Last night and the Atlanta game, two road games that we lost, ‘Melo had real big nights and prior to those two games it hadn’t been that way and I have stressed and will continue to stress that it has to be everybody that plays. I don’t want a team that it’s a one-man show. We didn’t have that in Atlanta when I coached. We had six guys that averaged in double figures because on any given night I want somebody to be different. It could be ‘Melo every night and that is okay too but one night it might be JR (Smith), it might be (Steve) Novak, it might be Tyson (Chandler), that’s the kind of team that I want to assemble because I just think it keeps opposing teams off balance in terms of who to key in on. Everybody knows were going to key in on ‘Melo because he is considered our best player, he and Amar’e, but if JR is doing his thing and Novak is doing his, Baron (Davis), the two rookies, and I call them rookies because they don’t deserve to be called by their names yet, I want it to be a total team effort. It’s been that way defensively and that’s why we’ve been able to make this short run that we have made up until this point and we have to keep it that way offensively.”
On the mindset of the team through all the injuries:
“I think it goes both ways. It goes hand in hand. Yeah I have to push but they have to be willing to accept the push and accept the challenge and I think they have done that so far. We’re still holding on to a game and a half, we’re still controlling our own destiny, we can’t worry about what Milwaukee is doing or Philly. If we handle our business, we will be in the playoffs.”
Whether he has thought about what he needs to do to keep his job after this season:
“I don’t know and to be honest with you guys I don’t sit at home thinking about that, I really don’t. I am happy and content in what I do as a coach. I never look over my shoulder, it’s not about that. I’m a very secure man in terms of my everyday approach to my job. I’m happy when I go to work and I’m happy when I go home and go to bed about my approach to being a head coach. There’s only 30 of these jobs so I’m very fortunate to be in this position and grateful and thankful that they asked me to take over. In doing that, I can’t look over my shoulder worrying about tomorrow and if I’m going to be here as a coach. I’ve got 13 games unless Mr. Dolan says ‘Mike I’m going to let you go tomorrow.’ I’ve got 13 games to try and get something done and that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
If he has thought about the ramifications for the Knicks not making the playoffs:
“No. I will never let that enter my mind because we came into this season and expectations were high and we’re still feeling the same way. That will never change and the fact that we are in a playoff run and it’s tight with three teams we still control everything that we do. These players have got to understand that and it’s my job to push them to understand it.”