To say Knicks interim head coach Mike Woodson's squad has struggled during the first round of the playoffs against the Heat would surely be an understatement. From injuries on the court (Iman Shumpert) to injuries off the court (Amare Stoudemire), the Knicks have been playing with a battered roster that was already depleted during the regular season when Linsanity came to an abrupt end in early April. While the injuries are arguably beyond Woodson's control, the former Hawks head coach has repeatedly failed to field a competitive team in each of the Knicks' three contests against the Heat, making a return to the bench in October highly unlikely.
There's no denying the fact that the Heat have more superstars on their roster than the Knicks with the likes of the Big Three dominating the court on a nightly basis. However, that does not mean the Knicks are excused for putting together a perfunctory approach where they are letting up points in bunches and failing to execute any semblance of an offensive game plan. The responsibility of motivating players and getting the most out of their talents falls upon the shoulders of the team's coaching staff and most importantly, Woodson. Simply put, Woodson has been unable to fulfill this obligation each night the Knicks have gone to battle with the Heat.
Woodson did a tremendous job of re-establishing a defensive-minded culture at MSG upon taking over for Mike D'Antoni in March and in turn, leading the team to an 18-6 record to finish the regular season. Tyson Chandler's Defensive Player of the Year award should be partially credited to how Woodson maximized his talents when there were so many defensive liabilities surrounding him in the starting lineup. Woodson helped Carmelo Anthony once again become an offensive threat by moving him to the power forward position when Stoudemire was hurt, which helped make a terrible trade look a little bit more palatable.
Look back at Woodson's tenure in Atlanta and you'll find a head coach who went from a 13-69 record in his first season to 53-29 in his sixth. He improved the team's record each season in which he was the head coach, taking the Hawks to the playoffs in each of his final three seasons with the franchise. But that wasn't enough for the team's front office as they focused more on his inability to convert regular season success into a sustained run in the playoffs. Sure, 50+ wins pre-April 30 is great, but going 11-18 in the playoffs is the easiest way to find oneself working at the four-letter network come October.
Woodson's track record dictates that he can build a winner and get the most from his team during the months of October through April, but he has failed to show the creativity, wherewithal and poise to enjoy success when it counts most. Many franchises would be fortunate to have Woodson as a head coach and a team or two will surely come calling to express interest in his services when the season comes to an end in June. That team, however, will not be the New York Knicks.