The Knicks are in shambles, with Woodson even acknowledging after Sunday’s loss to the Pelicans his team is playing scared late in tight games. Carmelo Anthony said the team is fighting confidence and “mentality’’ issues, and fixing that often falls on the coach. Anthony has hinted at a fracturing locker room, and there have been an inordinate number of blowups on the bench. Dolan must be at least mulling whether his public statement still applies. Do the players still respect Woodson? Has he treated the players “relatively equally’’ with the Woodson-Iman Shumpert relationship an issue. Van Gundy and Dolan were not on speaking terms for the longest time after Van Gundy abruptly quit early in the 2001-02 season. The two exchanged pleasantries at the Garden last season before Van Gundy broadcasted a game for ABC. Van Gundy will be back at the Garden Dec. 11, working the Knicks-Bulls game. New president Steve Mills worked with Van Gundy for two-plus seasons in his first stint with the Knicks when his title was executive vice president of franchise operations. They got along well. A Van Gundy return would also set up the possibility of Bobcats assistant Patrick Ewing coming back as his associate coach. Dolan and Ewing repaired their broken relationship last season when Ewing worked for MSG Network periodically. Van Gundy likely would be interested in the Knicks position.
In late June, Van Gundy gave a massive mea culpa for quitting on Dolan — remarks that appeared to sit well with Dolan and may have served as an olive branch. On ESPN Radio, Van Gundy called it “a stupid decision’’ to quit. “It’s something I regret to this day,’’ Van Gundy said. “I live with it every day and I regret it. And I let my emotions come into it. And I was just emotionally spent. I made a bad decision and I quit….I had a great job with the Knicks.’’ One coach who once worked with Van Gundy said the former Knicks/Rockets coach has never desired taking over for a club in midseason, feeling it’s a tough go.
Van Gundy, whose Knicks record was 248-172, has thoroughly enjoyed his broadcasting gig and it wasn’t until very recently — with his daughter graduating high school — he seriously contemplated a comeback. He last coached the Rockets in 2006-07. He attracted mild interest from the Clippers and Nets last June.