New York Knicks: Have we overlooked the best head coach candidate?

Mike D'Antoni, Houston Rockets (Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
Mike D'Antoni, Houston Rockets (Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /
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New York Knicks
Mike D’Antoni, former New York Knicks coach. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Best Head Coach for the Knicks: Mike D’Antoni

It’s been widely reported that Mike D’Antoni is unlikely to return to Houston.  Yes, he’s getting up there in age, but he wants to keep coaching. If the Knicks were willing to exercise patience in this search – why self-impose a July deadline? – bringing Mike D. back to NY would be the perfect way to begin this turnaround.

You may disagree with that “perfect” opinion. But before you do, here are some inarguable facts.

Mike D’Antoni Wins

  • In PHX, he took over a really bad team in-season. Win totals the next four years?  62, 54, 61, 55.  Three consecutive division titles.  Went to WCF immediately following that “really bad” 29-win campaign.
  • Once Donnie Walsh gave him players, the Knicks went from 29 wins to the playoffs (after six straight lotteries).  Even during a clear rebuild, his first year on the job saw a 9-win increase from the previous year.
  • Went 40-32 in LA after a horrible Mike Brown-led start.
  • Immediately prior to his taking over the Rockets, they went 41-41 under Kevin McHale and suffered a first-round exit for the third time in four years. They’ve gone 213-97 since with zero first round exits.
  • He’s Top-20 all-time in regular season wins, with the fewest seasons coached among that group.

Mike D’Antoni Knows Offense 

  • Four full seasons in PHX:

Scoring: 1st, 1st, 1st, 3rd
Pace: 1st, 1st, 3rd, 4th
Efficiency: 1st, 2nd, 1st, 2nd

  • Three full seasons in HOU:

Scoring: 2nd, 2nd, 11th
Pace: 3rd, 13th, 26th
Efficiency: 2nd, 1st, 2nd

  • Prior to his arrival in NY, the Knicks were 21st in PPG, 15th in Pace, and 23rd in Efficiency.  The next three years:

Scoring: 4th, 10th, 2nd
Pace: 2nd, 8th, 3rd
Efficiency: 17th, 17th, 7th

Those first two years in New York, he dealt with major roster upheaval; I mean, Chris Duhon was the starting point guard. Oh, by the way: last two seasons, the Knicks finished 28th and 29th in scoring; 17th and 22nd in Pace; and 30th and 28th in efficiency.

Mike D’Antoni Does Rebuilds

See Phoenix and New York.

Mike D’Antoni Makes Players Better Offensively

  • He can develop rookies / youth: Amar’e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, Danilo Gallinari, Clint Capela…
  • He’s gotten production out of role players who hadn’t anywhere near the same level of success prior to playing for him: the aforementioned Chris Duhon, Raymond Felton, Jeremy Lin, PJ Tucker…
  • He’s helped stars reach new heights: Steve Nash, Amare in NY (pre-Melo trade), and James Harden.

“But what about DEFENSE?”  In Houston, D’Antoni’s coached a Top-10 defense and three middling defenses. At the very least, he’s shown a willingness to hire a “defensive coordinator” to account for his shortcomings. Either way, his formula works:

Elite offense + Decent Defense = Contender.

“But he can’t win the big one.” Maybe. Or maybe he’s a brawl and a hamstring away from two rings. He has 49 career playoff wins, which slots him 6th among active coaches.