Monday, April 21, 2014

Knicks fire coach Mike Woodson, rest of staff

The Jax ax finally fell on Woody.

Mike Woodson, after last season delivering the Knicks their first Atlantic Division title since 1993-94, was let go as head coach Monday in a move that was anticipated even prior to Phil Jackson taking over as president last month.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Woodson and his entire staff,” Jackson said in a press release. “The coaches and players on this team had an extremely difficult 2013-14 season, and blame should not be put on one individual. But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond.”

Woodson, who met with Jackson early Monday, was packing his belongings at the training facility in Tarrytown and declined comment.

“I’ve got to clear my head first before making any comments,” Woodson told The Post.

The rest of the coaching staff — assistants Jim Todd, Herb Williams, Darrell Walker and LaSalle Thompson, plus shooting coach Dave Hopla — also were relieved of their duties by Jackson. According to a source, Jackson did not bother speaking to the assistant coaches, and the staff came in to collect their things after Woodson got the word. Williams, though, may return in some capacity.

Woodson had one season left on his pact at about $3.3 million, but his ouster was a foregone conclusion when Jackson came aboard, looking to bring in his own staff, perhaps angling toward a triangle-themed offense. Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher, former Jackson point guards with no head-coaching experience, have been mentioned as potential candidates whom Jackson can mold.

Kerr has emerged as the frontrunner, with a source telling The New York Post’s George Willis last week Kerr “absolutely expects” to get an offer. Other candidates for the Knicks staff are Derek Fisher, Ron Harper, Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons and Bill Cartwright, with Jackson looking for people familiar with the triangle.

Woodson still felt he was the man for the job, saying after Jackson was hired that he would like to install the triangle with Jackson’s assistance.

Fans first started chanting “Fire Woodson’’ back in November when the Knicks sputtered to a 3-13 start. But Knicks owner James Dolan stuck it out with Woodson across this disappointing season that saw the Knicks finish at 37-45 and miss the playoffs in shocking fashion.

Woodson’s record as Knicks coach in his 2 ½ seasons goes down at 109-79. His .580 winning percentage ranks third in franchise history behind Pat Riley (.680) and Jeff Van Gundy (.590).

Woodson, who played his rookie season for Red Holzman in New York, was 18-6 in his first season in 2011-12 after being promoted from defensive assistant when Mike D’Antoni resigned.

Woodson then guided the Knicks to a 54-28 record last season, acquiring the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference and earning third place in Coach of the Year voting. However, the Knicks’ second-round playoff ouster by the Pacers didn’t sit well with Dolan, who felt Woodson was outcoached by Frank Vogel.

After Glen Grunwald, Woodson’s buddy and former University of Indiana teammate, was fired four days before training camp, things went downhill. The Knicks’ injury-riddled roster had Amar’e Stoudemire, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin sidelined or limited in the early going. In recent days, the former Hawks coach made an allusion to the season’s troubles stemming from training camp.

“Coming out of camp, we weren’t sharp based on the injuries,” Woodson said last week. “It was an ugly camp. I didn’t feel good about where we were as a basketball team. We didn’t get much out of camp. I didn’t have the bodies to push guys where they needed to be, whereas the year before, everyone was flying around. My staff and I was willing to coach and do what we need to do. It’s done. We got to figure out where we go from here.’’

Scouts say Woodson’s offense was too predictable and didn’t fool anyone in end-game situations — which could explain why the Knicks lost so many close contests this season. But the Knicks never quit on Woodson and made a hard charge for the eighth seed in the final 1 ½ months after falling 19 games below .500 in early March. The Knicks won 16 of their final 21 games.

However, it was not enough. The end for Woodson was inevitable.

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