Breaking down the first half of the NBA season, Grantland’s Zach Lowe touts the candidacy of Mike Woodson for the league’s Coach of the Year, as there’s little doubt that Woody has been doing one of the three or four best coaching jobs in the NBA. Lowe is especially impressed with Woodson’s evolution as a coach, and his ability to integrate new ideas into his philosophy:
So does Woodson, who has reached both Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith in ways previous coaches couldn’t; resurrected Rasheed Wallace’s career as a useful defensive stopper; and, most importantly, embraced NBA modernity by spacing the floor for a rainstorm of 3s and Tyson Chandler pick-and-rolls. Woodson has been pigeonholed in the past as an iso-ball, slow-it-down conservative stick in the mud, but he has bucked that perception by adding a bit of Mike D’Antoni/Stan Van Gundy flavor.
I think there’s a bit of a misconception in a statement like the above that it somehow exonerates D’Antoni for his failures, as if it’s to say, “See, he’s using D’Antoni’s stuff! Mustache’s are better than goatees!”
But coaching, I think as anyone who’s ever had one can attest, isn’t just about scheme, but there is a sales element to the job. The players have to believe in what you’re saying. I think Woody deserves enormous credit for both evolving as a coach, finding a few new ideas that fit the skills of his team, and then executing them. That part is not easy either. It’s also quite possible he’s just been really underrated as a tactician in his own right, something that his ability this year to draw up plays out of timeouts would attest.
Also, I know the stats — correctly, in my opinion — bear out that the Knicks haven’t been a consistently good defensive team this year, but I also think they’ve shown a level of defensive quality at times that we haven’t seen from this team in a long while, and for me, that’s still an encouraging sign as the season goes along.