There are conflicting reports today about the future of Mike D'Antoni as coach of the New York Knicks. One report says D'Antoni could be a candidate for the newly-vacated job as head coach of the Toronto Raptors, thus bailing on the Knicks. Another report calls that notion "amusing" and says there is no truth to it.
Ah, who do you believe? Whatever. Here is a better question, appropriate I believe with the 2011 NBA Finals going on right now between the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat. Can the Knicks ever reach championship level with D'Antoni running the show on the bench?
No doubt D'Antoni is a terrific coach. In seven full seasons as an NBA coach his teams (Phoenix and New York) have gone to the NBA playoffs five times. His Phoenix teams were always high-flying, high-scoring squads led by Amare Stoudemire and Steve Nash. Now, he is in New York and with Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony the Knicks are pointed in the right direction.
Thing is, can D'Antoni get a team all the way to the mountaintop? He is an offensive coach, and a very, very good one at that. He talks about defense, but if you have watched his teams for years you know that is mostly lip service. For D'Antoni the path to victory is outscoring the other guy.
If you have watched the NBA playoffs you know they are not about offense. They are about toughness. They are about rebounding. They are about getting stops in the final few minutes and making life as miserable as possible for the top scorers on the opposing team. They are about executing at crunch time. D'Antoni's Knicks did not execute at crunch time in this year's playoffs against Boston, and got swept. His teams have never been about toughness, rebounding or getting stops.
So, the question will hang out there until the Knicks either move on from D'Antoni or he proves it isn't a valid one. Can the Knicks win the big prize with Mike D'Antoni as head coach? I have my doubts.