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New York Knicks’ Mike Woodson Must Prove Worth During 2013-14 Season

June 19th, 2013 at 8:00 AM
By Matt Agne

Mike Woodson's start as the New York Knicks head coach has been outstanding. New York has posted a 72-34 record since he took over late in the 2011-12 season. That's the best start any Knicks coach has ever had. However, he'll have to continue that success and show more success in the post-season in order to keep his job after the 2013-14 season.

'New York Knicks' photo (c) 2009, Mike - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Mike Woodson was historically successful in his first two seasons as head coach of the New York Knicks. This past season he led the Knicks to their first Atlantic Division title in over a decade, watched Carmelo Anthony capture the Scoring Title and helped J.R. Smith focus enough to win the Sixth Man of the Year. The year before Tyson Chandler won the Defensive Player of the Year under Woodson's watch. Clearly the team and his players have thrived under Woodson's leadership.

That didn't change the disappointment felt in the playoffs this season when New York was eliminated by the Indiana Pacers. Like a true leader, Woodson put most of blame on his shoulders.

'Jason Kidd, Mike Woodson' photo (c) 2013, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/ However, that was more than leadership. That was the truth. Woodson's rotations were questionable at best and even though players like Smith didn't perform well at all, Woodson failed to adjust and the offense became stagnant and almost solely isolation based.

Woodson failed to feed the hot hands, outside of Anthony. He even seemingly forgot about Chris Copeland despite what he showed during the regular season. That ultimately led New York to losing close games and reaching their goal of playing in the Eastern Conference Finals with a chance to reach the NBA Finals.

Heading into the 2013-14 season, if the Knicks fail to improve on the second-round exit it could be the end of Woodson's term in New York. It could be that Woodson will re-live his fate with the Atlanta Hawks.

Marc Berman of the New York Post reports Woodson's final year isn't guaranteed in his contract.

According to an NBA source, Woodson has only one more fully guaranteed year left on his pact. The final year of the pact — 2014-15 — is not guaranteed. The three-year deal signed Memorial Day weekend last year is worth $10.5 million, the source said.

'Mike Woodson' photo (c) 2008, spablab - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ Woodson does a great job keeping his players accountable but he's also extremely stubborn. That stubbornness keeps him on track with his game plans but it also keeps him from adapting which is vital to success in the NBA. Quite frankly, Woodson might be better built to coach in the regular season than he is for the playoffs.

The simple fact is, it's easier to fire coaches then it is to pull off player moves a lot of the time. The Knicks lack flexibility and are basically stuck being a taxpaying team while they continue to have Anthony, Chandler and Amare Stoudemire on their books. Head coach may be one of the few areas New York can make a major change.

Woodson’s guaranteed portion of the contract coincides with Carmelo Anthony’s opt-out clause next summer. The Knicks can give Anthony a contract extension no earlier than mid-February.

Lets be honest, that's not a news flash to Woodson or anyone else. There's always big name coaches available and coaching movement is probably more common than player movement even with free agency. Knowing that won't take away the pressure Woodson will be under though. New York has a veteran team with a win-now mentality. The team can't allow Woodson's stubbornness to hold them back.

Woodson’s ultimate downfall in the playoffs was hitching his wagon to Smith and not letting go, even though Smith was slumping and bothered by a viral infection and fluid on his knee. His reluctance to go sooner with rookie Chris Copeland, try 3-point ace Steve Novak or stout rebounder Marcus Camby was puzzling.

That being said, Woodson has clearly earned the shot to prove his worth next season. Not only do his players love him but he was able to deal with injuries all over the roster. What other coach was up for Coach of the Year and/or got their team into a top three seed with a $20 million player, Stoudemire, playing less than 30 games in the season?

New York is rightfully keeping their options open by letting Woodson's contract play out. There's plenty of other options out there that are intriguing. However, if he can improve as a coach it's likely that his contract will be extended after next season. If he doesn't, Woodson could be looking for a new job after the 2013-14 season.

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Tags: Amare Stoudemire, Basketball, Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Mike Woodson, NBA, New York, New York Knicks, Tyson Chandler

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