GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Sometimes traveling is not a bad thing in basketball. And, now that Mike D’Antoni has journeyed to the other coast to coach the Los Angeles Lakers, a couple of his former associates with the Knicks offered their thoughts after practice Monday:
Head coach Mike Woodson:
“Very excited for him. I really am. I think he’s a guy that’s meant to be a coach. He’s done great things over the years as a coach and I think they’ll do extremely well there.
“The guy gave me an opportunity to continue my work as a coach. And I learned a lot from Mike in the short time we were together. I had the utmost respect for him and I wish him nothing but the best. [I learned] a different way of playing offensive pick and rolls. He was great at it. Some of the things Mike did, I’m still doing. I’ve added a few things to what he’s done, but I like a lot of things Mike did from an offensive standpoint. I think Mike’s a fantastic coach."
What D’Antoni will bring to the Lakers, “only time will tell. You got to get your system in place and get guys to adapt to what you’re doing, and then you wait and see. He’s got to go through probably a learning process, too, players learning what he’s about.”
And when the Lakers come to New York in mid-December? “It’s just a game, man. I’m happy for guys who get an opportunity to coach and still fulfill their dreams of being a coach. I think it’s excellent for Mike. He’s landed a great team, I think.”
“Despite all the hoopla and the -- that was going on about me and Mike, we always had a pretty good relationship. Especially behind closed doors and at practice, we actually talked a lot, talked basketball. What he’s able to bring to the Lakers organization, to that team, and hopefully he brings some positive energy over there. Anytime guys are losing like that there’s always negativity, a lot of negative energy. Sometimes it changes.
“I’m happy for him. I knew he was trying to take some time off and get healthy and things like that. I was with him this summer. He didn’t really know what was going to happen as far as getting a job, this year or next year. So, obviously it’s worked out this summer, with him and Kobe, maybe they had something under the table, I don’t know. But it’ll be fun. I know Kobe’s excited about that. We’ll see what happens.
“To be with honest with you, you don’t have to bring too much to that table that they have out there, the two bigs, Kobe, Steve Nash. Steve Nash is used to that offense, the great offense, Kobe played with D’Antoni a couple of times with the USA team, Dwight was actually on one of the teams. That offense will be quite familiar to those guys.”
And when the Lakers come to the Garden? “I don’t even know who we play this week. That’s too far ahead for me to think.”
“That was quite the news when coach Brown got fired, and obviously with coach Jackson being talked about, him going back there, and all that, and then coach D’Antoni getting it. He’s going to do a great job with those guys, I think him and Steve Nash are pretty familiar with each other, so coach D’Antoni is going to have another assistant coach out there on the floor. That’ll help, and obviously Kobe is very familiar with coach D’Antoni. It’s nice when a coach comes in without training camp to have guys who are familiar with him and have worked with him before.”
To play for D’Antoni “was great. As a man, he was someone that everybody got along with really well and as a coach, everybody knows what an offensive genius he is and he could kind of just get teams going and I think that’s what the Lakers are looking for.
“I expect the Lakers to win every game except for the ones we play against them. I wish him the best of luck. I know he’s just coming off knee surgery and he’s got the Lakers to worry about, too. I’m sure that knee he’ll forget about real quick. It’s be great to see him. It’s great to see him back in coaching.”