MINNEAPOLIS - Mike Woodson acknowledged Wednesday morning that it has been his responsibility to get the Knicks to persevere through the losing, injuries and controversies of a disappointing season and he conceded, "I feel like I've failed somewhat."
Still, while calls for his removal have been gaining momentum through a run of losses, Woodson vigorously disagreed that the Knicks would be better off with another coach.
"I think I was the guy for the job and I still think I'm the guy for the job," he said, "and I'm going to continue to work in that area."
Woodson's body of work and job status have become hot topics as the season has spiraled downward. Entering Wednesday night, the team had lost seven in a row and 13 of 15. The Knicks were 61/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
But as he got ready to prepare the Knicks for their game against the Timberwolves, the coach said, "I'm not going to quit. That's just not my nature. I hope that these guys don't quit. I don't think they are quitting, I think they are competing but the fact that we've piled up some losses here, guys have kind of lost a little confidence and we've got to get it back."
Woodson's stature is 180 degrees removed from when he was promoted to replace Mike D'Antoni two years ago and presided over a Knicks resurgence. It was just last season that the Knicks won 54 games, captured the Atlantic Division title and beat the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Expectations grew high, which has made this season's results look that much worse. What has been particularly unflattering to the coach is that the Knicks' defense has been among the major reasons for their decline, and Woodson was brought in as an assistant specifically to help their defensive posture.
"To come into a season after experiencing two wonderful seasons -- something the Knicks haven't done in years -- then you go through a season like this, it's been very, very challenging for me," Woodson said.
"But I'm a realist. I look at all the different things that have happened surrounding our ballclub and I try to put it in its proper perspective, how to deal with it on a day-to-day basis and still try to keep our team up to speed and where they need to be as a team on the floor. I feel like I've failed somewhat in that area but at the end of the day, we still have a shot."
His responsibilities this year have taken strange turns, such as helping Raymond Felton overcome the breakup of his marriage and a charge that he had an unlicensed handgun. Woodson said he spoke with the struggling point guard "in detail" Tuesday. "My job as the coach is to shelter and pat him and try to keep him upbeat," Woodson said. "He says basketball is his only out right now."
Basketball has been Woodson's life for a long time. He believes that counts for something; that it counts for a lot, actually. "I've been in this thing 31 years. I've been on losing teams as a player, I've been on winning teams as a player. I've coached losing teams, I've coached winning teams," he said. "I've seen a lot of basketball. If I sit here and hang my head . . .
"I'm not happy about what's going on, there's no doubt about that. But I'm not going to sit here and lose sight of who I am and what I think I can become and what I think this team can become."
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