My original posts shows that you need a great defensive team to stand a good chance at winning a ring.
The last time I checked, we were 21st in the league defensively. If Tom could raise a team ten spots with essentially the same core group from the year before in the Bulls, then it stands to show he could do something similar with the Knicks. Mind you, you also have to consider the original position from where he raised the Bulls, too. He went from 11 to 1. Meaning he made them such a great defensive team that they surpassed other great defensive teams. It would be much more easy, say, to raise a 30 to 20, because those teams don't play defense at all. The closer you get to the front of the pack the more difficult it will become.
I don't think you'd disagree that (and judging my your reply to Red's post -- you don't) the coaches "win" philosophy has a direct relation to the type of players a GM tries to get him.
More of a reason, in my opinion, to get rid of MDA sooner than later.
Thibs shows (re above) that he can make a team elite. Boozer of course helps, but really their defense didn't improve by 10 spots just because of players -- especially when you consider their core starting line-up may have actually worsened on an individual defensive side with the addition of Boozer. Thibs strategies made each of his players better defenders. We need a coach like that. More importantly, with Melo and Amar'e, who have shown little defensive tendencies, we must pray for a coach like that.
I will never say players don't matter. The obviously do. But everything falls back to the coach.
I think we have a core group of guys that are those "great players" you wanted. I would like "two-way" guys (sounds dirty) as you suggested, but when we had something similar to that in Corey Brewer, he didn't play. Even more reason to get a new coach. Again, the coaches strategies goes to the type of players we acquire. Walsh got players that matched D'Antoni's style of play -- that is until this trade, where you don't pass up on a superstar like Melo. Now you see D'Antoni frustrated in that he doesn't have the players that match his offense and looks a bit lost out there. He is a one dimensional coach in this respect.
Right now, we need a coach that can teach team defense to two guys that don't really play it (because like it or not they are here to stay). We need a coach that will accept defensive/offensive hybrid players. Though, yes, players matter... ultimately it falls back to the coach and how he prefers to play basketball. If we give MDA another year, another offseason, which we may have to; who knows what will happen... what kind of long term contracts will we give out to players who will not match a more defensive minded coaches approach, should one such coach eventually come along?
I half disagree with RED that MDA made the Knicks relevant again. Yes in that he was a coach that gave some offensive prowess to a team that had Amar'e... but, truly, I think Donnie Walsh made them relevant again. He got rid of bad contracts to get a free agent in Amar'e. The freed cap space brought in some great guys, and then we get Melo. That is Walsh, not D'Antoni, IMO.