Mike Woodson Hired as Knicks’ Coach

The team officially lifted Woodson’s interim title on Friday and signed him to a multiyear contract — his reward for salvaging a seemingly dismal season and guiding the Knicks to the playoffs. The decision to retain Woodson was made weeks ago and had been widely reported, although working out the contract took some time.

The next key move will be to re-sign Lin, the Knicks’ point guard sensation, who will be a restricted free agent on July 1. General Manager Glen Grunwald left little doubt that the Knicks would do so.

“We can keep him if we want him, and we do want to keep him,” Grunwald said on a conference call. “And I believe that Jeremy had a great experience here, and I believe he wants to come back. So that’s where that is.”

Because Lin is a restricted free agent, the Knicks will have the right to match any offer, regardless of the salary cap. Because of certain cap rules, no other team is permitted to offer him more than $5 million in a starting salary. Rival teams could conceivably attempt to “backload” a contract to dissuade the Knicks from matching the offer, but that is unlikely, given Lin’s short résumé.

Asked if he could foresee any circumstances in which the Knicks would lose Lin, Grunwald said, “No, not at this time.”

The Knicks missed Lin’s presence in the playoffs, when the Miami Heat easily knocked them out in five games. Their offense sputtered badly and was reduced to a series of predictable isolation plays for Carmelo Anthony and J. R. Smith. Baron Davis, who is well past his prime, ran the offense until he blew out his knee in the Knicks’ lone victory, leaving the aging Mike Bibby to start in Game 5.

Lin missed the final month of the season and the playoffs after having surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee. Woodson indicated that Lin is fully recovered and will be ready for basketball activity this summer. He has been invited to play for USA Basketball’s select team, which will train with the Olympic team in July in Las Vegas.

“Jeremy’s doing great,” Woodson said. “He’s gone through his rehab process, so he’s back running and moving, like we expected him to be.”

Although the Knicks were dominated by the Heat, they did win their first playoff game in 11 years, an 89-87 victory in Game 4. Woodson secured his future before that, by leading the team to an 18-6 record after replacing Mike D’Antoni in mid-March. The Knicks were 18-24 at the time, and in danger of missing the playoffs, because of ongoing tensions between D’Antoni and Anthony.

In a statement, James L. Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman, praised Woodson for the “significant improvement” he inspired and for making good on his pledge “to hold every player on our roster accountable.”

The Knicks did not consider other candidates and never reached out to Phil Jackson, the Hall of Fame coach and former Knicks forward. Grunwald acknowledged Jackson’s standing as “the most successful coach in N.B.A. history,” but said, “We felt Woody was our guy.” He said Woodson sealed the deal during the interview process.

“We told Woody he would get the first crack at the job, and he hit it out of the park,” Grunwald said.

People close to Jackson have said he would listen if the Knicks called, but that he may not be ready to return to coaching. On Friday, one friend reaffirmed that Jackson remains “ambivalent about coaching again.”

Before negotiating the deal, in a move that created a minor stir, Woodson terminated his longtime agents, Joe and Keith Glass, and hired Terry Prince of Creative Artists Agency. The Glasses indicated that Dolan ordered Woodson to make the switch, presumably because they also represent Larry Brown, whom Dolan fired in 2006.

Woodson, addressing the matter for the first time, said: “I elected to move on. Mr. Dolan had nothing to do with me making this decision.”

C.A.A. has been increasing its influence at the Garden for the last year. Its agents also represent Anthony, Smith and two key members of the front office, Mark Warkentien and Allan Houston.

The agency also does extensive business with the Garden in the marketing and entertainment areas.

“I chose C.A.A. because I just thought that they would be the best for me,” Woodson said.

Both Woodson and Grunwald expressed confidence that the Knicks could contend in the Eastern Conference without major additions. They may not have much choice, given salary-cap constraints.

“We’re happy with our roster,” Grunwald said.

The Knicks could receive a small lift if the players union wins an arbitration case seeking so-called Bird rights for Lin and Steve Novak, which would provide more cap flexibility. But that case is considered a bit of a long shot. Grunwald declined to speculate on the outcome.

It is now up to Woodson, who once coached the Atlanta Hawks, to find a way to blend the scoring talents of Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire’s, a goal that has eluded the Knicks the past two seasons.

“I know expectations are high, and they should be high,” Woodson said. “I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.