New York Knicks players made two things clear to new president Phil Jackson during exit meetings:
Some told Jackson that the players didn’t “buy in” like they had the year before. This can be taken as an indictment of either the players or ex-coach Mike Woodson -- depending on how you view the season.
Players also told Jackson that they weren’t always "on the same page" in 2013-14. That seems to be a direct indictment of Woodson.
“Things were different for us this year," Jackson said. "... [that's] what I took away from that as a general whole."
Jackson fired Woodson and his entire staff on Monday, three days after conducting exit meetings with the players. On Wednesday, Jackson talked about some of the reasons behind the Knicks’ failure this season. New York finished with just 37 wins -- 17 fewer than last season -- and missed the playoffs for the first time in four seasons.
Here’s how Jackson saw it:
“The fall from grace for this basketball club this year, as precipitous as it was, had so many different angles. Starting from training camp, all the way through, until basically the end of February, maybe after the All-Star game, things started to get better. All the players were very sheepish about the way they ended up this season and vowed it should not happen again.
“We emphasized the fact that it starts now. Putting together positive mindset, positive work ethic, coming to camp ready to play and not getting ready to play in camp in October. That was really one of our messages to the players. One of the messages from the players was that this is a very talented team, and that they had to have a lot of games where they forced their talent on opposing teams rather than playing with freedom and making things easy. So all the wins were hard to get, and there were wins that were won with talent basically, not with team play, which I thought was an accurate statement. So I think the talent’s here.”
Jackson said it will be incumbent on the team’s next coach to get the players back on the same page next season.
“How to blend [the talent] together is a coaching decision and actually a personnel decision, how to find that right combination of people to get the best out of the players and to make this a smooth functional team,” Jackson said. “So that’s what we’re going to try to do here in the next couple, three months, getting this team ready for next season, is trying to get the personnel that can play together and the coach that can blend that talent.”
Steve Kerr is widely believed to be the leading candidate for the Knicks’ job. Jackson on Wednesday said he will also interview other candidates.
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