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Mike Woodson named head coach of Knicks

Knicks coach Mike Woodson calls a play for

Knicks coach Mike Woodson calls a play for his team in the first half. (April 3, 2012) Credit: AP

Earlier this month, Mike Woodson led the Knicks to their first postseason victory in 11 years. Next season he will try to guide them to their first series win since 2000.

The Knicks, as expected, removed the interim tag from Woodson's title and made him their head coach Friday, giving him a three-year deal.

After replacing Mike D'Antoni, Woodson guided the Knicks to an 18-6 finish in the regular season and became the only candidate to lead them next season although marquee coaches, including Phil Jackson, Jerry Sloan and Stan Van Gundy, were available.

General manager Glen Grunwald said the Knicks never considered reaching out to Jackson, who has won a record 11 NBA titles as a head coach.

"Woody earned the right to be the first person we talked to and turned out to be the only person we talked to because our discussions with him after the season really reflected why he was so successful during the season," Grunwald said. "We thought he was the right guy for this team at this time.

"There are some great coaches out there that had we opened up the search would have been called, namely Phil Jackson, who is the most successful coach in NBA history. We felt Woody was our guy. He showed it during the season and in our discussions after the season."

It's unclear if Jackson would have considered the Knicks had they approached him.

"We told Woody he would get the first crack at the job and he hit it out of the park," said Grunwald, Woodson's college teammate at Indiana.

When Woodson took over for D'Antoni, the Knicks were 18-24 and had lost six in a row. Woodson challenged stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, held players accountable and put an emphasis on defense. The Knicks responded, posting the second-best record in the NBA in the final 24 games, and reached the postseason, where they lost to the Heat in five games.

"We saw a significant improvement since Mike took over and believe our team will only keep improving under Mike's direction," Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan said in a statement.

Woodson's biggest challenge will be figuring out how to make Anthony and Stoudemire successful as a tandem and lead the Knicks to postseason success. The two are 31-40 in regular-season and playoff games they have played together.

Woodson, who was hired as an assistant to D'Antoni during the lockout to help defensively, will have a full training camp to implement a system that can make the Knicks more lethal. But Woodson hasn't proven to be a standout offensive coach with the Knicks or in six years with the Hawks.

Opponents found the Knicks' heavy doses of isolations and post-ups for Anthony predictable late in the season, perhaps because they lacked a penetrating point guard. Jeremy Lin played only seven games under Woodson because of a knee injury.

"It will be nice this year to be able to settle in and have a veteran camp where everyone comes back and everybody has an opportunity to work and I'm able to put a system in that I think can help us win," Woodson said. "I know expectations are high, and they should be high. I'm looking forward to the challenge. That's why I elected to come back, and I'm very happy about it."

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, MSG and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.


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