Multiple reports surfaced on Tuesday that the New York Knicks had begun negotiations with interim head coach Mike Woodson in getting the ball rolling to naming him the next permanent coach of the franchise.
It comes as a surprise to almost no one that the Knicks are prepared to give Woodson to full-time gig. The former Atlanta Hawks coach came on this season as an assistant under Mike D'Antoni with the task of helping improve the team's lackluster defense. New York's defense improved markedly, certainly boosted as well by the acquisition od eventual Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler. But when D'Antoni resigned (or was shown the door or was pushed out by Carmelo Anthony depending on who you believe), Woodson took over and led the Knicks to an 18-6 record down the stretch, securing the team's second consecutive playoff berth. This past weekend, Woodson became the first Knicks coach since Jeff Van Gundy in 2001 to lead the team to a playoff victory.
As the Knicks enter another do-or-die game Wednesday night in Game 5 of their first round series against Miami, Woodson has seemingly completed his campaign. Nobody expects the Knicks to be the first team to ever come back from a 0-3 deficit in a series to win, so any further extension of the series would be gravy. At this point, the Knicks would be in good hands next season with Woodson behind the bench.
But the one name that lurks in the shadows that can swoop in and snatch the job is Phil Jackson. The 13-time NBA Champion (11 as a coach) is the only person the Knicks could rightfully hire at this point that would make not extending Woodson acceptable (given that no current NBA coaches become available, like Doc Rivers, Tom Thibodeau, Rick Carlisle etc.). If it's merely a matter of money, Jackson will be the next Knicks coach. Knicks owner James Dolan will make him the richest coach in the history of sports if need be. But maybe it's not just about the money with Jackson; does he not want to enter what has consistently been a three-ring circus since Dolan took over? Does he not believe the Knicks' with Anthony, Chandler and Amare Stoudemire can fit in his signature triangle offense?
There's some sentimentality involved as well, what with Jackson being on the Knicks' two title teams in the early 70s as a player. It would be a nice cap to his coaching career, coming full circle and delivering a title to New York. While it sounds nice, only Jackson knows if that matters to him one bit.
Either way, the Knicks will be in good hands next season. While Woodson isn't Phil Jackson, he's proven he can consistently win games in the NBA with the current Knicks roster. If he's given the full-time gig, the Knicks will have a different and hopefully improved roster for Woodson to work with. Woodson has deserved the chance to see what he can do. But sometimes life isn't fair, and Jackson could come in at the last second and steal the job from him. While Woodson wouldn't be the happiest person about it, the Knicks and their fans would be.