Will Leitch has some thoughts on the return of Mike D’Antoni to the Garden tonight that align very closely to my own, essentially that no matter what defense you might be able to come up with for D’Antoni’s coaching, it’s pretty impossible to argue with the results:
D’Antoni is sure to be booed when he’s introduced tonight, and as much as we loved the guy when he was here, it’s difficult to blame MSG for its reaction. After all, ever since he left and Mike Woodson took over, all the problems that D’Antoni was so insistent couldn’t be fixed have not only been fixed, the Knicks are better than D’Antoni himself even seemed to dream they would be. The Knicks, coached by Mike Woodson, are playing as a team and winning at a conference-best rate. The Lakers, coached by Mike D’Antoni, are the most drama-filled team in the league … just like the Knicks were when he was here.
Part of what’s fun about sports is arguing about sports. Sports arguments are a valued American tradition, like Thanksgiving and gun violence. And as it goes, sometimes you end up arguing the wrong side. I always had a soft spot for Mike D’Antoni, perhaps it was our shared Italian roots, it always felt like he could have been one of my uncles.
And sure, you could probably figure out some way to mount some kind of defense of his tenure, or at least find a few plausible excuses, but it’s sort of beyond the point. Sometimes you have to simply concede that you were wrong, that for whatever the reasons, whether circumstance or just general incompetence, D’Antoni was the wrong coach for the Knicks. This is pretty much fact at this point, particularly since one imagines that D’Antoni probably watches Woodson’s Knicks and thinks, “Yeah, that’s pretty much exactly what I wanted this to look like.” But it didn’t, at least not while he was here.
So if that was your take all along, you’re right. And if you find yourself sitting in the stands tonight, feeling that those tortured seasons justify a display of loud, vocal displeasure. Well, I’d say you’ve earned the right to let it rip.