Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni during practice on Monday. (Apr....

Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni during practice on Monday. (Apr. 18, 2011) Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.


Welcome to New York, Mike D'Antoni!

Forget what you thought you knew in sunny Phoenix. The playoff glare is a hundred times brighter here, and the humidity makes things stickier, too.

The Knicks coach hinted even before Game 1 against the Celtics that his 51 games of postseason experience did not fully translate. He said the media crush was more like a conference finals out west.

Then they played the game, and D'Antoni really got a taste of his new circumstances.

For most of his three regular seasons, he has been given as much of a pass as New York fans and media can give a coach, what with all of the cap-clearing unpleasantness and a revolving door of a roster.

Now, at last, it really counts, and a narrow, heartbreaking postseason loss opened him up to legitimate debate and second guessing. And if this keeps up, there will be questions about his future. What? Too soon? Nah.

D'Antoni has things to prove between now and this time next year if he hopes to stick around -- unlike his big stars, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, who aren't going anywhere anytime soon.

Fortunately for him, D'Antoni continues to approach the job with perspective and good humor, which is helpful in a taxing gig that he joked should be measured in the coaching equivalent of dog years.

He was uncharacteristically feisty after Sunday night's game, taking a sarcastic shot at the Celtics' Glen "Big Baby'' Davis and complaining about officiating decisions that did not go the Knicks' way.

But by Monday, D'Antoni again was upbeat and philosophical. He cracked that if he had had a timeout on the last possession, he would have used it against his better judgment, simply to cover his rear end in the eyes of critics.

"Isn't that how you coach in the NBA?'' he said.

Speaking of which, what does he make of all the, um, attention so far? Having fun yet?

"It's cool; I don't mind it,'' he said. "I know there is a lot of scrutiny, and it's good . . . It's exciting to have all you guys. It's exciting for me, too. But it's mostly what we do on the court. It doesn't matter if I walk off and there's one person to talk to or if there's 80. It's still the game. I'm prepared. I kind of like all this stuff.''

OK then, what about squandering all those timeouts, thus limiting his options? He said he used one in the third quarter to stem the Boston tide, another when Chauncey Billups was hurt and another as he tried to mix and match for offense and defense.

D'Antoni hinted that the frantic final seconds could have and should have been cleaner, and that given his players' lack of experience together, a timeout might have helped. But he repeatedly refused to question Anthony's decision to hoist a long three-pointer with about four seconds left.

Why not look for Stoudemire, who dominated most of the fourth quarter before being ignored the last few possessions? D'Antoni said it would have meant an extra pass there might not have been time to complete.

After the game, he said the Celtics adjusted on defense to slow Stoudemire. "It wasn't the game plan,'' D'Antoni said. "[I didn't say] 'OK, that's enough, Amar'e. We'll go away from you.' That just happens.''

Yup, stuff happens in the playoffs. And everyone has an opinion about it. At least it's still early in the series, and the sun was scheduled to come up again Tuesday, bright as ever.