New York Knicks: Mike Woodson hiring a massive step in the right direction

Mike Woodson, New York Knicks (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Mike Woodson, New York Knicks (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) /

Seven years after leading the New York Knicks to the winningest season since 2000, Mike Woodson is expected to join Tom Thibodeau’s staff as an assistant coach.

The New York Knicks are beginning to look like the New York Knicks again. Led by team president Leon Rose, New York has committed to bringing back individuals who understand what it was that made Madison Square Garden such a special place.

That process continued on Thursday, July 30, when it was reported that New York would be reuniting with one of its most successful head coaches: Mike Woodson.

The Knicks made waves by hiring Tom Thibodeau as the new head coach. Thibodeau is a proven commodity as far as winning in the head coaching role is concerned, as well as an individual who spent close to a decade as an assistant at The Mecca.

Mike Woodson is set to return to the sidelines in New York.

According to Shams Charania of The Vertical, the Knicks are bringing back another familiar face by adding Woodson to the organization in, “Some capacity.”

For those who forget, Woodson was the head coach when the Knicks made the leap from fringe playoff team to legitimate contender.

Between 2008-09 and 2013-14, Woodson accumulated a record of 209-143 as head coach—a win percentage of .594. He led the Atlanta Hawks to three postseason appearances, including a 50-win season in 2009-10 and two playoff series victories.

Woodson took over as head coach of the Knicks in 2011-12, leading the orange and blue to an 18-6 record after starting the season at 18-24 under Mike D’Antoni.

Woodson built upon that success by leading New York to 54 wins and a playoff series victory in 2012-13.

New York went 37-45 the following season, and Woodson was relieved of his duties during the 2014 offseason. In the six years that have followed, the Knicks have failed to win more than 32 games, and have yet to make another postseason appearance.

Moreover, the 54 wins in 2012-13 were the most that the Knicks accumulated in a single season since 1996-97.

In short: Woodson is one of the few coaches in the NBA who know what it takes to win in New York. Although he won’t be the head coach, he will be involved in the organization, which bodes well for the Knicks.

In addition to having an assistant coach who knows what it takes to win in New York, the head coach has similar knowledge—albeit reversed.

Thibodeau led the Chicago Bulls to five straight postseason appearances and the Minnesota Timberwolves to their only trip to the playoffs since 2004. Before he was making struggling franchises relevant again, he was a top assistant in the NBA.

That includes a three-year stint as the Associate Head Coach for the Boston Celtics, during which the team won a championship and made a second NBA Finals appearance.

Rewind further and one will recall that Thibodeau was one of the top assistant coaches for the Knicks between 1996 and 2004. He became Jeff Van Gundy’s right-hand man, even joining him with the Houston Rockets after JVG’s relationship with the Knicks unceremoniously ended.

During Thibodeau’s time with the Knicks, the franchise made five postseason appearances and reached the 1999 NBA Finals.

There’s no possible way to guarantee that New York will experience that same success under Thibodeau and Woodson, but there’s reason for intrigue. Rather than hiring coaches who know the game, but have never experienced an animal quite like New York, Rose is bringing in those with first-hand knowledge.

Considering how unique of an experience it is to coach the Knicks, finding individuals with extensive experience may be the fix that the front office was looking for.

Both Thibodeau and Woodson are defensive-minded coaches, which fits a franchise that has never sustainably won without great defense. They’ve also been around when that mentality has specifically won games for the Knicks.

Rather than being individuals who hope their approach can work in New York, Thibodeau and Woodson have seen it in practice.

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The New York Knicks still have a mountain of work to be done, but the hirings of Tom Thibodeau and Mike Woodson for key roles in the organization represent massive steps in the right direction.