Emboldened by the Goldman Sachs exec who took parting shots via the New York Times op-ed page on his way out, now-former NY Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni figured he’d do the same …
By MIKE D’ANTONI
TODAY is my last day as head coach of the New York Knicks. After almost four years with the team — first as a respected member of the coaching community, then in New York where I couldn’t do shit, and now on my way out — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the current team make-up now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of fans who want to see quality basketball continue to be sidelined in the way the team operates and thinks about using Carmelo Anthony. The New York Knicks are one of the world’s most recognized brands and it is too integral to the fan base to continue to act like anyone knows how to play a lick of defense. The team has veered so far from the one I joined fresh off my much-heralded run with the Phoenix Suns that I can no longer in good mustache say that I identify with what it stands for.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but team defense was always a vital part of the Knicks’ success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, physical play, and always putting on a show for its fans. The atmosphere in the Garden was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our fans’ loyalty trust for 76 years. It wasn’t just about clearing out the court so ‘Melo could take a ridiculous shot and Amar’e could be out of position for the offensive rebound; star power alone will not sustain a team for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the team concept. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the run-and-gun, seven-seconds-or-less philosophy that made me love coaching only one kind of team for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look fans in the eye and tell them that I had an honest clue about how to motivate talent and win games with only three lousy defenders on the court at any given time.
When the history books are written about the Knicks, they may reflect that the current ballhog, Camerlo Anthony, and the high-profile free agent, Amar’e Stoudemire, forgot how to be stars on my watch. I truly believe that this decline in the team’s moral fiber represents the single most serious threat to the Knicks picking in the lottery after this season, despite having a super-team with Tyson Chandler, Melo and Stat.
My proudest moments in life — growing this awesome mustache, chatting with Steve Nash about his day once, telling Knicks owner James Dolan he smells like brisket — have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts. The Knicks today has become too much about being Dolan’s vanity project and not enough about basketball achievement. It just doesn’t feel right to me anymore.
I hope this can be a wake-up call to Knicks management. Make team defense the focal point of your game again. Without defense you will not win a championship. In fact, you will not make the playoffs. Weed out the me-first shooters, no matter how much money they make for the club in jersey sales. And get the culture right again, so people want to play here for the right reasons. People who care only about offensive numbers will not sustain this team — or the loyalty of its fans — for very much longer.
P.S. Jeremy Lin sucks, y’all.
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