Pity poor Mike D’Antoni, former coach of the NY Knickerbockers.
While you’re at it, pity poor Larry Brown, and poor Lenny Wilkens, and poor Don Chaney, and poor Jeff Van Gundy.
These poor souls (once again, save for Zeke, that swine) have had to deal with an ever-changing roster of has-beens and never-will-bes, a fanbase and a media base that would praise you just as fast as they would tear you from limb to limb, and an owner who is, well, just the absolute worst.
That is, James Dolan, the “swaggering” vocalist of JD & The Straight Shot, head of Cablevision (his father Charles Dolan hired him for the position) and the miserable-looking fellow who can be found sitting courtside at Madison Square Garden, appearing as though he is waiting for his turn to tell his sobriety group how his week went. This is the man who calls the shots in the supposed “Mecca” of basketball.
For the past ten years, those shots have been really, truly, absolutely shitty.
He has brought in head coaches with Hall of Fame pedigrees and New York City roots: Lenny Wilkens, the pride of Bedford Stuy and the one-time winningnest coach in the NBA’s history (Don Nelson, another former Knick coach, now has that title), and Larry Brown, another Brooklyn-born Hall of Famer who is widely considered one of the all-time great basketball minds.
Both men came with great fanfare, expected to turn around a sputtering franchise that never seemed to regain its swagger since losing to the Indiana Pacers in the 2000 Eastern Conference finals.
Both men left in what has become a familiar exit: fired midseason and with a losing record (Knicks were 17-22 at the time of Wilkens’ firing, and 23-59 when Brown was tossed).
So surely Mr. D’Antoni, the offensive guru who turned Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns into one of the most exciting offenses in the past decade, knew what he was getting himself into when he signed a 4-year, $24 million deal to coach the Knicks?
For in Dolan’s world, having a revolutionary offensive system means bubkes in the scheme of things. In Phoenix, Mr. D’Antoni had a mainstay at the point guard position. In New York, he had Stephon Marbury and Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford and Chris Duhon and Toney Douglas and Sergio Rodriguez and Raymond Felton and Chauncey Billups.