Last year, Mike Woodson finished third – and ahead of Gregg Popovich! – in Coach of the Year voting.
This year, Woodson is probably getting fired.
Did Woodson become a worse coach? Doubtful, though it’s quite possible his ability relative to the rest of the league has slipped. First-year coaches Jeff Hornacek and Steve Clifford, to name a couple, are excellent. (Though outgoing coaches like George Karl and Lionel Hollins weren’t too shabby themselves.)
More likely, Woodson’s fall has more to do with how he reached his players. Personalities evolve, and how they fit together within a team can change drastically. Trust is not permanent.
Amar’e Stoudemire, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com:
“I mean, again, certain strategies were placed upon us with Coach Woodson. There were times when we didn’t quite buy into it and as a result of that, we lost games.”
This might seal Woodson’s fate with the Knicks – though I’d guess every other sign pointing that direction already makes his departure a done deal – but it could help him land a head-coaching position elsewhere.
Yes, part of Woodson’s job is to convince his players to follow a unified strategy, but maybe that was just too difficult with this mercurial group. Perhaps, Woodson’s tactics could again be effective in a new environment.
Coaching is so difficult to assess, because much of the heavy lifting occurs behind the scenes, and it’s difficult to separate what players do for themselves and what coaches do for them.
But if I were Woodson, that – the Knicks not buying in – is the story I’d be selling potential employers.