The New York Knicks fired head coach Mike Woodson and his entire coaching staff Monday morning. The decision came following a tumultuous 37-45 season and no playoff berth, one season after the team finished 54-28 and won its first playoff series since the 1999-2000 season.
The news wasn’t a big surprise, and names had already been floating around as potential replacements for Woodson. One of those names, Steve Kerr, addressed the rumors Monday on his SiriusXM NBA Radio program.
“I do anticipate talking with [Knicks president of basketball operations] Phil Jackson at some point. When that time comes, it’ll come,” Kerr said. “For now, there’s really not a whole lot to talk about. This is the NBA. Coaches basically know when they go in that they’re likely to be fired. It’s a brutal business. I think back to a year ago when the Knicks were one of the best stories in the league, they win 54 games – I thought Mike Woodson was one of the top coaches in the league, did a fantastic job, and then everything fell apart this year.”
Kerr pointed specifically to offseason personnel moves, an injury to Tyson Chandler and J.R. Smith‘s season-opening suspension.
“I think this was largely circumstantial,” Kerr said of the firing, “but that’s the way the NBA works. The coach is usually the first one to pay. I feel bad for Mike, I think he’s done an excellent job in New York, but between the struggles of the team this year and the new regime with Phil Jackson – and I don’t think I’m the only one saying this – I think the writing was sort of on the wall the last couple of months, and now here we are.”
One of the reasons Kerr is such an intriguing prospect for the vacancy is his relationship with Jackson. Kerr played under Jackson with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s, and has remained close with Jackson since.
“Even while he was coaching the Lakers, I would often have dinner with him on the road, if I was playing for another team, even, just to catch up,” Kerr said. “I went to his daughter’s wedding a few years ago in Montana – we’ve been very close. I’ve known for years that Phil wanted to do this. Not necessarily in New York – I thought he was going to end up in Seattle last year if the Kings had moved to Seattle to become the Sonics. But I knew that he was done with coaching, that he was more interested in being a team president and building a franchise. And I think he’ll be very good at it. It’s going to be very interesting, and obviously my name is being thrown around. I do anticipate at least being a part of the conversation, and we’ll see where it all goes.”
Earler in the day, Mad Dog Sports Radio host Adam Schein gave his take on the Woodson firing, calling it a no-brainer for the Knicks’ front office.
“If you’re a fan of the Knicks, you can’t be remotely surprised,” Schein said. “The Knicks, this past year, were an unmitigated disaster. They were a chaotic mess. The roster was completely, 100 percent flawed. There were issues with the J.R. Smith contact, the J.R. Smith suspension; I mean, this team was botched from the get-go. Having said that, you know what the Knicks were? Good enough to make the playoffs.
“Carmelo Anthony had, in my opinion, the best season he ever had as a basketball player,” Schein said. “And it was wasted with a non-playoff appearance because Mike Woodson couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag. There’s no way that anybody could tell me that the Atlanta Hawks were more equipped to be in the postseason than the Knicks.”
Schein also gave his take on possible successors to Woodson, and Kerr seemed to fit Schein’s characterization of the ideal “Phil Jackson candidate.”
If Phil Jackson is your president, here’s what you do, and what you will do: You need to hire a coach that’s going to come from the Phil Jackson tree. Because this team is going to be built like a Phil Jackson roster. I mean, heck, right before the season ended, did you see the Knicks signed Lamar Odom to a contract? I mean, if that doesn’t give you a little snippet, a little glimpse, into the direction of the Knicks, then I don’t know what to tell you. Welcome to a plan that is going to, in Phil’s mind, resemble the Bulls and the Lakers. Because that’s what he is; that’s what he does.