Mike Woodson was brought in to be Mike D’Antoni’s defensive specialist. As the Knicks new interim coach, Woodson said he gradually will change how they play offensively.
Before beating the Blazers 121-79 in his Knicks’ coaching debut Wednesday night, Woodson said he would post-up Anthony more, and try to get the ball inside to Amar’e Stoudemire.
Woodson will have to keep some of D’Antoni’s principles in tact, though. There are only 23 games remaining, not too many practices, and not only making the playoffs but advancing is still the Knicks’ goal.
“There’s still a lot at stake here,” Woodson said. “Expectations are high. That’s how it should be. I expressed that to the guys. Expectations are still high. We still have a great opportunity to do something special in New York.
“I’m going to hold these guys accountable for that, being the coach. There’s some things that will be changed as we move along. But I am very excited about being the coach here and I’m going to make the most of it.”
Woodson, who designed new plays during timeouts, spent six seasons with the Hawks and compiled a 206-286 record. The Hawks made the playoffs Woodson’s last three years running his offense through Joe Johnson. They won 53 games last season and reached the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second consecutive year.
Woodson, 53, began his NBA playing career with the Knicks in 1980. Thirty-two years later, he’s trying to get them into the playoffs. But that doesn’t mean he will return next season.
“Mike understands that we will be re-evaluating at the end of the season,” Garden executive chairman James Dolan said. “Mike Woodson is a proven coach, a respected voice. I believe he can help us put together a drive to make the playoffs.”
Woodson was responsible for the Knicks’ defense and rebounding. They’ve been a middle-of-the-pack team in both areas this season. But the players support him.
“Coach Woody’s been here the whole time,” Iman Shumpert said. “We know what he expects from us every night. He’s had a tremendous effect. There have been times this year we were locked in on defense. But during the six-game skid I think we’ve gotten away from who we are on both ends of the court.”
Woodson said he was looking forward to practice Thursday so he could start implementing some of his plays and philosophies.
It came as a surprise to him and the players that D’Antoni had stepped down. Woodson said he met with the players briefly before being introduced as interim coach and then talked to them before the game about his expectations.
“I think they respect what I do, and I respect what they do,” Woodson said. “And as we move forward, it’s my job as the head coach now to push guys to try to play at a higher level. Because that’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in, in terms of turning it around and making the playoffs.
“I’m going to be held accountable, and I’m going to make damn sure that they’re held accountable to win.”