The National Basketball Association is a player’s league and if you needed any further evidence check out what happened this afternoon at 4 Penn Plaza, New York City. After 3 and a half seasons of mediocrity Mike D’Antoni was forced to resign from his head coaching position with the New York Knicks while rumors of an unhappy Carmelo Anthony sulking to management asking for a trade or more input on the daily happenings of the team began to swirl. Someone had to take the fall for the Knicks recent decline and losing their last six games. But Who? That’s right, Coach D’Antoni.
While there is plenty of blame to go around for the Knicks and their 18-24 start to this season, the man who has taken the brunt of it has been D’Antoni. And today that part of the problem is gone. While it probably won’t help the struggling Knicks as the issues lay way deeper than just the head coach, it’s a start. There’s an old saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink” and D’Antoni might have done some good to his mental health if he had that quote posted in his office at Madison Square Garden. No matter what he tried to implement this season or any other as the Knicks’ coach they just hadn’t been able to grasp his system and execute to reach the team’s potential and at the end of the day that falls on the head coach’s shoulders. Under D’Antoni the Knicks only made the playoffs once, last season and even then they gave up like a dead dog at the first time of adversity and crumbled during a 4-0 sweep by the Boston Celtics. At what point do the players take responsibility for their ineptitude on the floor?
Far too often front office management believes that making a change at the head coaching position will solve all a team’s problems. A fresh face, new attitude and new philosophies can change the whole outlook of a team and make them better, the goal of any coaching change. What the front office personnel sometimes fail to take into account is what is really happening on the court and where the true problems lie. But how could they know, many of the people who reach these positions are business focused individuals and academic scholars who have never picked up a basketball in their life. The issues with this New York Knicks team is the notion of TEAM and having the personalities of the players and coaches all gelling together and feeding off each other. Maybe D’Antoni wasn’t the right man for this job and for Carmelo Anthony’s personality, but getting rid of him isn’t going to make this team any better in the short or long term without other significant changes occurring as well.
At the end of what will be another disappointing year for the New York Knicks the whole organization will need to take a deep look at their personnel both on and off the court and try to solve major issues if they want to become a winner again. The hype surrounding Jeremy Lin and Linsanity may have sold some tickets this season but the New York fans will not keep coming back until they have a winning product on the court. Since Carmelo Anthony’s return the Knicks are an ugly 2-8 and the riffs between players, coaches and ownership are a glaring display of the troubles in New York City that need to be resolved as soon as possible. Will the rumored potential coaching replacements Phil Jackson or John Calipari be able to fix this squad without shipping off one or two highly paid players? Probably not, but maybe someone will listen to them.
After all, It’s a players league.