New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson talks to Carmelo Anthony (7) during the first half of Game 6 of an Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Indiana Pacers Saturday, May 18, 2013, in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings, Associated Press)
NEW YORK — Mike Woodson was fired as coach the New York Knicks on Monday after his team fell from division champions to out of the playoffs in one season.
Phil Jackson, in his first big move since becoming team president in March, said in a statement “the time has come for change throughout the franchise.”
The dismissal comes shortly after the Knicks completed a 37-45 season that began with their belief they were a serious contender.
Instead, they started poorly, making Woodson's job security practically a season-long distraction. A late surge wasn’t good enough for a postseason spot or another year for Woodson.
Jackson has won an NBA-record 11 championships as a coach. He has repeatedly said he's not interested in returning to the bench, so he will have to hire someone before he turns his attention to the roster. The team said the coaching search begins immediately.
Jackson said he has a “tremendous amount of respect” for Woodson and the team “owes a great deal of gratitude" to him and his staff. Jackson called this an “extremely difficult” season and said “blame should not be put on one individual.”
“But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond,” he added.
Woodson, a former Knicks first-round draft pick, was hired as an assistant coach before the 2011-12 season, then engineered an 18-6 finish after replacing Mike D’Antoni on an interim basis the following March to capture a playoff spot. Given a multiyear deal two months later, he then led them to a 54-28 record last season and the Knicks' first Atlantic Division championship since 1994.
New York then beat Boston in the playoffs, its first series victory since 2000, and general manager Steve Mills picked up next season’s option year on Woodson's contract before this season began.
But the Knicks were saddled with some early injuries, including center Tyson Chandler's broken leg, and Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan was already considering about replacing Woodson by December, when he met with Jackson at a holiday party and talked to him about coaching the team.
Carmelo Anthony praised his coach Thursday, but it was probably a clear sign Woodson wouldn't be back a few minutes later when Amare Stoudemire said the coach hadn't taken part in the exit meetings with players that Jackson and Mills held.
Woodson previously coached six seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, leading them to the playoffs in his final three seasons. He has a career record of 315-365.