The New York Knicks have won three straight games since Mike D’Antoni resigned and assistant coach Mike Woodson was elevated to the interim head coaching position. Before Woodson took over the Knicks had lost six straight games and eight of their last ten.
So what is Woodson doing that is so different from his predecessor? Well for starters they are playing defense.
Woodson was brought in as a defensive specialist but the Knicks had regressed defensively in recent weeks.
During the ten game stretch leading to D’Antoni’s resignation, the Knicks were only able to keep two of their opponents under 100 points. The Knicks have kept their opponents under 90 points in two of the three games they have played under Woodson.
The Knicks are playing better defense under Woodson but it also helps that they have been more careful with the ball. The Knicks are turning the ball over way less now that they aren’t playing in D’Antoni’s wide-open scheme.
The Knicks did turn it over 19 times in Woodson’s first coaching appearance but have only turned it over 11 times in each of the last two games. They registered 16 or more turnovers in seven of the last ten games D’Antoni coached.
Simplifying the offense has probably been the best change that Woodson has instituted since taking over the team though. Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire are his best two players so he runs the offense through them. Neither has reached the 20-point scoring mark in the three games since D’Antoni left but they are touching the ball more.
So Woodson is keeping his best players happy and winning which is what he has to do in order to convince the Knicks brass to offer him the job permanently but what may ultimately determine if he gets his wish will be how well the Knicks do in the playoffs.
Woodson previously served as head coach of the Atlanta Hawks for six seasons improving his win total every year he was with the team. The Hawks only went 13-69 in his first year there but Woodson would coach them to a 53-29 record his final season in Atlanta.
Woodson wasn’t as successful in the postseason though. The Hawks would be swept in the second round of the playoffs in Woodson’s final two seasons there prompting Hawks’ management not to renew his contract for the 2010-2011 season.
So Woodson will need to prove to management that he can successfully guide a team through the playoffs.
He doesn’t have to win a championship this year but if he wants the front office to hold off on their pursuit of Phil Jackson then he may have to lead the Knicks deep into the playoffs. If they can continue to win as decisively as they have the past three games then Woodson may just get his wish.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.