Is There A Case For Keeping Mike D’Antoni?

Mike D’Antoni has been the subject of a lot of conversation since he became the head coach of the New York Knicks back in 2008. With his contract expiring in 2012, people are now starting to take it as a foregone conclusion that he will not return next season, even despite his recent success in taking a re-shuffled team to a winning record and a playoff berth. But should D’Antoni be removed from his role and, more importantly, will he?

Last season, at least before the massive Carmelo-based trade that shook up the entire roster, the Knicks were playing a wonderful brand of basketball. And it was working. D’Antoni had managed to convert the ‘consolation prize’ that was Amar’e Stoudemire and a few mediocre pieces including Raymond Felton and Ronny Turiaf into a winning team. Coach D’s chemistry with Stoudemire from their Phoenix  days together had been transferred to the Garden along with them, resulting in a career year for Stoudemire. For those who say that D’Antoni’s ‘all-offense’ basketball can’t be successful, the first half of last season and his 5 years in Phoenix beg to differ. D’Antoni won 50+ games in four consecutive seasons and his ‘7 seconds or less’ offense is still famous today. Even last season, once he had time to work out what to do with the players at his disposal, D’Antoni posted a 28-16 record. Of course, this was before Carmelo came along but what’s to say he can’t pull off a similar record with some semblance of a training camp under his belt with the new roster? In fact, now that there is the addition of some defensive help in the form of Mike Woodson, D’Antoni will be able to post a record capable of securing his job for the future.

In the last 10 years of Knicks history, though, what should happen isn’t necessarily what does happen. D’Antoni has the chance to prove himself in the 2011-12 season but even with anything other than a title his job isn’t safe. The Knicks will likely go after a big-name head coach, making Mike a lame duck for the upcoming season. The main name being bandied around is the retired Phil Jackson, former head coach of the Bulls and Lakers Dynasties (and a two-time NBA champion as a Knick). That’s right retired. A retired head coach, who has had his ‘last stand’ and has expressed no interest in returning to coaching, is somehow more likely to be the Knicks head coach than a man who has had recent success on this team despite all the turmoil that has surrounded him in New York.

Don’t get me wrong, Jackson is obviously a fantastic head coach and a Hall of Famer but give D’Antoni a chance. D has done nothing wrong to this point and (as long as he gets past the first round – something I’m sure will happen barring injury) he deserves to be our head coach going into the future. This team is tailor-made for his style, with impressive, speedy athletes such as Iman Shumpert and Toney Douglas and two unprecented scorers in Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. Jackson or no-Jackson, this unwarranted hate for Mike D’Antoni needs to stop.