Even my friend’s poodle knows that Jeremy Lin probably saved Mike D’Antoni‘s job in New York. Two weeks ago they were a frustrated squad in disarray. Today they’re a talented group climbing up the conference standings. But I think Lin’s impact is even bigger than that…..
He may have saved Mike’s entire coaching career.
Being a success and being a success in New York are two drastically different things. It’s multiplied 10-fold in Gotham…just ask Jeremy Lin’s family. His grandmother back in Taiwan can’t even go to the market without getting paparazzied. If Jeremy had done all this for the Charlotte Bobcats or Sacramento Kings nobody would’ve cared but Michael Jordan or maybe the Maloof brothers.
Look at former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy. He led the franchise to the NBA Finals in 1999 as an eighth seed (also a lockout-shortened season), never before done and not since. He followed a great run in Gotham with a so-so campaign with the Houston Rockets. Today he has the stress-free job of ESPN analyst and is widely regarded as one of the better basketball minds. Just a few good years in New York and he is now considered one of the great basketball minds. His brother down in Orlando, who had the same NBA upbringing under Pat Riley, doesn’t get half the respect as his brother the bald Balki Bartokomous.
By the same token though, if one fails under the bright lights in Manhattan, it is never the same. Just ask these former coaches of the New York Knicks……
Lenny Wilkens, one of Jeff’s successors in New York, had a very frustrating run in Gotham which sent him into early retirement. It tarnished the legacy of the then-winningest coach in NBA history and we haven’t heard from him since.
How about Isaiah Thomas? while everyone still respects him as an ex-player, his coaching and basketball decision-making is a running joke in most NBA circles. He had a laughable tenure under James Dolan, which included a sexual harrassment lawsuit that the New York tabloids will never forget.
And who can forget the disappointing run of Larry Brown at MSG? Surely not Stephon Marbury. These two bumped heads from day one and made the Knickerbockers look unprofessional and sad. Yes, Larry got another job later thanks to a certain ‘Michael in Charlotte’, but he has never been looked at the same way. Now when people mention hiring Brown, like myself, it’s met with punchlines. He made the Pacers perennial contenders…he led the 76ers to the Finals…he even got the Clippers to the playoffs one year (pre-Chris Paul). His unsuccessful run as coach of the New York Knicks tarnished an entire career of great coaching.
The Knicks, two weeks ago, were a talented group that just didn’t fit Mike D’Antoni’s philosophy. Seeing as the coach is usually the first one to go, the chopping block was in ready position out at MSG. But thanks to the emergence of Jeremy Lin, a true point guard, D’Antoni’s offense is working once again. We are seeing ball-movement and shooting…not ball-holding and dribbling.
Mike will likely finish the season as Knicks head coach as a result of ‘Linsanity’, but next year may be a different story. As we saw the other night against the New Jersey Nets, Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire may be the franchise’s two best scorers but the team plays best when those two are out of the game. Defense and shooting improve, and so does the overall basketball cohesion.
In the end, star power always wins out. I mean, that is why James Dolan traded half his team away for Anthony last year. Jeremy Lin, too, is a star…made the old fashioned way: with hard-work and humility. He isn’t just New York’s savior, but its coach’s too.
Mike D’Antoni’s job and career are safe…..for now.
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