The New York Knicks beat the Portland Trail Blazers 121-79, their most lopsided victory of the season, hours after Mike D’Antoni’s resignation as coach.
Carmelo Anthony scored 16 points and Amar’e Stoudemire had 17 as the Knicks ended a six-game losing streak and won their first game under interim coach Mike Woodson, who was promoted from assistant to replace D’Antoni for the rest of the season.
D’Antoni’s departure came hours after the New York Post said Anthony, the Knicks’ All-Star forward, wanted to be traded by tomorrow’s National Basketball Association deadline and had created a rift with D’Antoni. Anthony responded on Twitter, saying that he didn’t want to be traded and told reporters at practice that he supported the coach.
“This is not an event that was planned in any way, it just happened this morning,” team owner James Dolan said of D’Antoni’s resignation in a news conference at Madison Square Garden before the game. “He just felt it was best for the organization if he did not continue as coach.”
The change of coaches occurred about a month after the Knicks, with Anthony sidelined by injuries and Jeremy Lin taking over as point guard, had become the toast of the NBA by winning seven straight games.
The team’s temporary resurgence became known as Linsanity, and helped boost television ratings and ticket prices on the resale market and grab international headlines.
As the team slid back down recently, fans at Madison Square Garden, where ticket face-value prices rose an average of 49 percent this season, have again booed the home team.
D’Antoni stepped down in his fourth season with the Knicks, who are 19-24 after losing eight of their past 11 games. He was in the final season of his contract with New York.
“We have the talent and the character to succeed and I believe these guys can do it,” Dolan said. “The season is not over and this team can still be the team our fans hoped it could be.”
D’Antoni exited with a 121-167 record since joining the Knicks before the 2008-09 season. The team reached the playoffs last season with a 42-40 record before being swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round.
The Knicks hired D’Antoni as coach and Donnie Walsh as team president in 2008 to resurrect a salary-burdened franchise that had seven straight losing seasons, including a team-record-tying 59 losses in 2007-08 under then-president and coach Isiah Thomas. D’Antoni was given a four-year contract worth $24 million.
As coach of the Phoenix Suns for five seasons, D’Antoni became known for a high-powered offense, directing his players to get off a shot within seven seconds of gaining possession. The Suns led the NBA in scoring for three straight seasons beginning in 2004-05 and reached the Western Conference finals in 2005 and 2007.
That type of attack -- and success in the standings --never took root with the Knicks. New York is 12th in scoring among the NBA’s 30 franchises this season, averaging 96.7 points per game.
Walsh led the Knicks’ strategy to free salary cap space to try to land LeBron James or another star player in July 2010. All-Star forward/center Stoudemire joined the club that offseason, when James went to the Miami Heat, joining fellow free-agent All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. New York traded for Anthony and point guard Chauncey Billups in February 2011, leading to their first playoff appearance in seven years. Walsh stepped down as president in June.
New York waived Billups in December, signing power forward Tyson Chandler as the NBA got set to start a lockout-shortened 66-game season. With injured point guard Baron Davis, another new addition, unable to play, the Knicks lacked cohesiveness until Lin, a Harvard University graduate cut by two other NBA teams, took over as starting point guard on Feb. 6 and helped the team reach .500.
D’Antoni also coached the Denver Nuggets and has a 388-339 record in 10 NBA seasons. He was named the league’s Coach of the Year in 2004-05.
Possible candidates to succeed D’Antoni long term include former Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls coach Phil Jackson, whose 11 NBA titles are a record, and University of Kentucky coach John Calipari.
“As I’ve said before, I have the greatest job in basketball at any level,” Calipari, whose team is the top seed in college basketball’s men’s national tournament that began yesterday, said in a Twitter post. “Why would I be interested in another job?”
Woodson, 53, coached the Atlanta Hawks from 2004-05 to 2009-10, posting a 206-286 record while leading the team to the playoffs during his final three seasons.
“I’ve been the interim there,” former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, who succeeded Don Nelson and led New York to the NBA Finals in 1999, said in a telephone interview. “It can turn out really good.”
Van Gundy said he wasn’t sure of the circumstances surrounding D’Antoni’s departure.
“He has nothing to apologize for,” Van Gundy said. “He went through constant changes to his roster and carried himself with remarkable dignity.”