Mike D'Antoni – Good Coach / Bad Coach

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Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni
The Knicks recently had a four game winning streak using a limited 8 man rotation and playing smart defense.  Now the Knicks have slipped into their re-emerging constant; an energy depleted team, full of frustration and without focus, resulting in a two game losing streak. Both losses were winnable games that dissolved in front of all Knicks fan’s eyes as many games have in the past two seasons in an all too familiar fashion. Many Knicks fans are wondering where the “energy” Coach Mike D’Antoni had preached all about all preseason has gone.


Great coaches great paid for a couple of reasons. To measure a coach’s ability one must compare the current coach vs. if the team had an average coach or worse.  The Knicks situation is obviously unique in the fact that Mike D’Antoni inherited a contract heavy, under talented team likely to have a heavy turnover for the ultimate goal of 2010 roster replenishment.


The last two losses this week bring more criticism directed at Mike D’Antoni’s system, staff, and future. The following will examine both pros and cons of Mike D’Antoni’s past, present, and future with the Knicks.


Firstly, Mike D’Antoni has brought back a coach that is worldly and really loves New York. He isn’t just in it for the paycheck and truly wants to win in New York to become a star coach himself.  Just as many players feel the allure of the bright lights, D’Antoni wants to be the new Joe Torre of the Big Apple. D’Antoni’s run and gun style is heavily criticized but it positively has brought an identity for the Knicks. His desire to win is great and he is not fazed by the garden crowd.


Regardless of if you agree that his style is good for a championship team or not, his zeal cannot be questioned. He was man enough to let Larry Hughes play after a horrid pre-season. He is also sitting Nate on the bench into humility. His ability to make a decision (right or wrong), and stick with it, is commendable and in the long run Nate Robinson will either help the Knicks or have a newfound respect for playing in the NBA. It seems every year Nate became less selfish in the summer league and learning to distribute the basketball.


Then, after about 10 games, Nate goes back into scoring-mode, lack of discipline, and the desire to be a showman.  Unfortunately, this does not have a place on a team that cannot play .500 basketball and D’Antoni is trying to stop the familiar December slide that occurred last winter.


Conversely, there is much to criticize for the 8-17 New York Knicks. Firstly, 8-17 does not cut it in the bright lights of the big apple, especially when a coach is preaching playoffs to a team from game one of the season.  Good coaches find was to stop losing streaks in games that are winnable.


The last two games are great exhibits where D’Antoni’s in game coaching could be questioned. A double-digit lead slipped away at Charlotte and an energy filled Bull team took the game away all too easily. Maybe the Knicks should have thrown some zone in the second have to stop the athletic Bulls, and maybe D’Antoni should have made more adjustments at half-time after seeing too many missed 3pt FG’s. 


Either way, good coaches find ways to keep it close until the 2 minute mark and give the team a chance to win the game late.  Watching Chandler and Duhon fire 3 pointers in key situations is not getting it done.  Tonight is another game that the Knicks could win. The Knicks come home to play the Clippers. The Knicks have not played well against the defenses minded Clippers recently. D’Antoni needs to coach his team to a win, and stop a losing streak on energy and desire, this is the reason we have D’Antoni here.


The Knicks lack of athleticism is evident but D’Antoni’s short rotation can surely be questioned. Maybe the Knicks could have used a spark from Jordan Hill last night, where David Lee wasn’t doing the job against Gibson and Noah. Also, Eddie Curry is in the rotation, but doesn’t play enough minutes to do much. D’Antoni’s system is great for 3 and a half quarters of NBA basketball, but debatable for the 6 minute home stretch in the NBA.

Gallinari has shown deadly shooting but a lack of playmaking and lateral movement. Harrington has become a go to scorer and Chandler has proved he cannot shoot behind the arc. With all this said D’Antoni must get the right players in the best situations to succeed and help the team win.  This is something that does not happen enough. 


So, we now have a four game homestand to close out 2009.  Mike D’Antoni needs to find a way to win tonight.  The sliding Knicks are only 4-8 at home and seem to be going into the annual pattern of atrophy. The Knicks must win at least two of the next four and prove that they are different.


Mike D’Antoni must show, tonight, a Knicks team that can bounce back and adapt. His commitment to consistency ironically lies in the ability to adapt quickly and professionally. A good team gets better throughout the season. A good coach gets the most out of his players. A good coach plus a good team create an organism with the ability to adapt, mold, and persevere in the face of adversity.


Coach D’Antoni is no longer playing to win. He is playing for his future and the future of the franchise.  Every night the team steps on their home court they should feel like they should win that game. Coach needs to show New York, as well as many free agents, that the Knicks are still a franchise going up. The season is on the familiar cusp of mediocrity and if D’Antoni wants to be a star it starts tonight at the Garden.

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