Mike Woodson apparently scared the Knicks straight.
Having watched them play from his seat on the bench next to Mike D'Antoni, he knew he had to do something different when he became head coach.
Singling out the Knicks' three best players, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, during the first time he addressed the team and telling them they needed to play harder and do more must have gotten everyone's attention. Entering Thursday night, the Knicks have gone 34-11 since.
"Maybe I scared them into playing," Woodson said before the Knicks faced D'Antoni's Lakers. "I had some things that I had to get off my chest, being back in the driver's seat as the head coach. I kind of stated what I wanted and what I expected from guys and who I was going to hold mostly accountable, which was Melo, Amar'e and Tyson at that particular time.
"They kind of knew where I was coming from. They bought in and we've been playing some pretty good basketball since then. So that's all I can attribute it to, I guess. Maybe I scared them into playing, I don't know."
Woodson may be overstating things, but the Knicks were 18-24 and had lost six straight when D'Antoni left March 14. They went 18-6 under Woodson and went into Thursday night an Eastern Conference-best 16-5, 8-0 at home. So whatever he said at that meeting had to have been heard.
"It got kind of quiet in the room," Woodson said. "I was kind of out on a limb when I said that. But I meant it. They've done it the longest in the league . . . I can't expect to go at Iman [Shumpert], who's a rookie who didn't play a lot of big-time minutes like they did. I got to hold them and expect them to do the right thing in terms of policing guys who hadn't played a lot of minutes and be more of a leader of the team. That was the right thing to do, I think."
"When he came in, he wanted to make sure we understood there had to be excitement," Steve Novak said. "We had to really kind of change. We had to have a different demeanor about us. He said it's on you three guys. A lot of times, things are understood in basketball. But when they're spoken and pointed out and made an emphasis, it's different. That was one of the first things he did. He must have thought it's very important. It's worked so far."
When Woodson was asked if the Knicks lacked accountability before he took over, he wouldn't answer, which said plenty. "I'm not going there," he said. "I can only attest to what happened when I was coaching that time and what I expected as a head coach. That's it. What happened before that happened. We've moved on since then. We're trying to build something in a big way, and that's what it's all about."
As well as the Knicks have played, their postseason results matter most. They haven't won a playoff series since 2000. Woodson has emphasized the importance of establishing themselves at the Garden so they can get a high seed and home-court advantage in the playoffs.
"We're trying to play for something, man," he said. "My clock's ticking and some of these guys, their clock's ticking, and we've got to make the most of what we've got each time we step out on the floor."