Mike D'Antoni apparently decided he already had coached his last Knicks' game before he conducted Wednesday's's morning shootaround.
The Knicks have been in a freefall lately and much has been made about D'Antoni's relationship with Carmelo Anthony. After the shootaround, Anthony said he supported his coach "100 percent." But D'Antoni's mind was already made up to leave because "he was a little frustrated from the fact that everyone wasn't buying into his system," according to Amar'e Stoudemire. And D'Antoni's decision stunned the Knicks' front office.
He met with interim general manager Glen Grunwald and assistant GM Allan Houston before the Knicks took the practice court. D'Antoni told them he thought it would be best if "he stepped aside," Grunwald said.
"It was a surprise when we came to this decision that Mike would no longer coach the Knicks and I'm disappointed that that happened," Grunwald said. "It's been a rough go for Mike and I really enjoyed working with him the past four years.
"I think he felt he had done all he could and he didn't really see another way for him to really positively affect the team so we could move forward. He felt that maybe it was time for another voice, another approach, and he stepped aside."
After Grunwald and Houston met with D'Antoni, they called Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan. He came to the practice facility and talked to D'Antoni and they "mutually" agreed to part ways.
"It was not an event that was planned in any way," Dolan said. "We had a very honest discussion. He clearly felt it was best for the organization if he were to not continue as the coach. He did offer to stay but after a long discussion we agreed it was best for the team to have a new voice moving forward."
D'Antoni's lead assistant, Mike Woodson, took over as interim coach for the rest of the season. Assistant coaches Herb Williams and Kenny Atkinson were retained. But Dan D'Antoni and Phil Weber, whom Mike D'Antoni brought with him from Phoenix in 2008, also are gone, Dolan said.
D'Antoni was in the last season of a four-year, $24-million deal. He was 18-24 this season and went 121-167 with the Knicks. Last year he led them to the playoffs and their first winning record since the 2000-01 season.
After adding Tyson Chandler, D'Antoni said they should compete for a championship. But they struggled and D'Antoni's job seemed to be in trouble when they lost 11 of 13 games. Jeremy Lin ultimately saved the season and D'Antoni. The Knicks won five of them without Anthony and were 6-1 with him sidelined with a groin injury. They haven't been the same team since Anthony returned.
D'Antoni always has favored a pick-and-roll offense where there is player and ball movement and scoring balance. Lin and the Knicks flourished this way. Anthony is more of an isolation player who needs the ball.
"It wasn't just Carmelo," Grunwald said. "It was our whole team was not playing up to where we thought they could be. I know Mike was as frustrated as anyone with that."
D'Antoni was in good spirits and said he was "pretty confident" the Knicks would come out and play hard. He also said it was his job to turn the team around. "The bottom line is we're not playing well," he said. "That's my responsibility."
Not anymore. It's Woodson's now, and Dolan believes the Knicks will finish strong.
"I want to be clear," Dolan said. "I believe in our players. I believe in our talent. I believe in their commitment to get the team together and get this right. I believe we have the talent and the character to succeed. This season is not over and this team can still be the team our fans hope it can be."