Mike D'Antoni's stunning exit Wednesday as head coach of the Knicks followed a string of losses and rising tension with star player Carmelo Anthony, but also gave fans hope that the rest of the season can be salvaged.
Knicks owner Jim Dolan said he and D'Antoni "mutually agreed" for him to resign, and "he really felt it was best for the organization ... not to continue to coach the team."
D'Antoni, 60, didn't speak publicly Wednesday after his resignation, but told reporters at a morning shootaround that "the bottom line is we're not playing well."
Players wouldn't comment before last night's game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
While assistants Phil Weber and Dan D'Antoni, Mike's brother, also quit, Dolan confirmed that assistant coach Mike Woodson would lead the team through the end of the season.
"This team can still be the team that our fans wish it could be," Dolan told reporters.
D'Antoni was in the last year of a four-year, $24-million contract. He finishes his Knicks career with a 121-167 record after guiding the team last year to their first winning record since the 2000-01 season.
Reports said his resignation was the result of long-rumored disagreements with Anthony, who denied a New York Post report that said he wanted to leave the Knicks by today's trade deadline. Anthony told reporters yesterday that he supported D'Antoni "100%."
D'Antoni's departure comes as the Knicks attempt to secure a playoff spot for the second year in a row. The team saw a surge last month with its breakout star, Jeremy Lin, but has since fallen into a rut.
Many fans waiting before last night's game outside of Madison Square Garden said it was time for D'Antoni to go.
"He just didn't mesh well with Carmelo," said Raja Ram, 20, of the Bronx.
Gregory Munoz, 38, of Astoria, said D'Antoni "had plenty of chances. Carmelo still deserves another chance, but D'Antoni ran out of his."
Knicks fan Barbara Edwin, of Ozone Park, said she's excited for new blood to change the team's dynamics.
"Bring back [Jeff] Van Gundy!," Edwin said.
Pros: Take your pick: his 11 titles in 20 seasons, his reverence for Knicks coaching forbear Red Holzman or his 10 seasons as a rough-and-tumble Knicks forward. Jackson's famous mind games could also check Carmelo Anthony's selfish instincts.
Cons: The Hall of Famer has never won a title without an all-time great like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Plus, at age 66 and with a history of health problems, how committed will he be?
Pros: The 53-year-old improved Atlanta's record each season from 2004-10 and won two playoff series. The Knicks' top assistant this season, he's familiar with the causes of the team's many ups and downs.
Cons: A 1980 Knicks draft pick, Woodson nevertheless lacks the impact and track record Knicks fans expect from coaching hires. His defensive focus never turned his talented Hawks teams into title contenders.
Pros: One of the NBA's great disciplinarians, Sloan would add backbone that's long been missing from the recent line of Knicks coaches. Good news for Jeremy Lin: Sloan led the pick-and-roll offense for all-time point guard John Stockton.
Cons: SI.com's Sam Amik reports that while Sloan longs for a coaching return, the Knicks' interest is not unanimous. The 69-year-old Hall of Famer's resignation last year was due in part to his frustration with ego-driven young players.