J.R. Smith knew this day was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier to digest.
"It is sad,” Smith told ESPN’s Josina Anderson when asked about Mike Woodson’s firing. “He was great to me. I think I got a fair shake for the first time in awhile under him. He treated me how he wanted to be treated. It sucks, but there is nothing I can do about it.
"I think he did a great job," Smith added. "I think he did a good job with me. He responded to the players. It's just a sad day for him, for me and my teammates."
Smith and Woodson butted heads at times over the past 2 ½ seasons. But by and large, the shooting guard thrived under Woodson. He won the sixth man award last season and excelled in the starting lineup over the last six weeks of this year.
Smith told Anderson on Monday morning that he had hoped to see Woodson back next season. Woodson is under contract for 2014-15. But Smith added that he supported team president Phil Jackson's desire to clean house.
“I don't know what is fair or not. I'm not the person dealing with fair or not. It would've been nice to see him get another year at least, but Phil Jackson has won a lot of championships and knows basketball, so we have to trust in that," Smith said.
Jackson said in a statement Monday that his search for a new coach would begin immediately. Steve Kerr is the leading candidate to replace Woodson.
Smith told Anderson that it will be “interesting” to see what Kerr, who has never coached before, brings to the bench.
“I don't know Steve that well. I have seen him in the airport a few times. I did some interviews with him. He seems like a cool guy. It would be interesting to see what he's got," Smith said.
Smith is under contract for the next two seasons, with a player option for 2015-16. So the next coach’s relationship with Smith will be worth watching. He’s said several times that Woodson has reached him in a way that no coach in the past has.
Will Smith be able to say the same of Kerr, or whoever is hired to coach the Knicks in 2014-15?
If Smith doesn’t respond well to the next head coach, could that lead to Jackson looking to trade the shooting guard?
Those are all hypothetical questions to ponder in the coming days and weeks.
Monday morning, though, was a time for Smith to mourn the firing of a man he said was one of the best to coach him.
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