Woodson trumps D'Antoni in MSG return

Mike Woodson has led the Knicks in the right direction since taking over as head coach on March 12. Rich Barnes/US Presswire

They say you only get one chance to make a first impression, and Mike Woodson didn't want to blow his opportunity.

So he walked into the Knicks locker room on March 12, a few hours after Mike D'Antoni stepped down, and delivered a simple message in his first words as head coach.

"He said he was going to hold guys accountable," Tyson Chandler said. "He called myself up, Amare, Carmelo. He said if you guys want to be the leaders of this team, then you've got to lead. You've got to lead by example. You guys have got to be the backbone and the character and you've got to show what the team is made of."

Woodson recalled the speech on Thursday, several hours before his Knicks faced Mike D'Antoni's Lakers.

"That was the right thing to do, I think," the coach said.

Nine months later, it's hard to argue Woodson on that one.

Especially after his Knicks handled D'Antoni's Lakers in convincing fashion on Thursday night.

With the win, the Knicks improved to 9-0 at home, their best home start since 1992-93. They'll wake up on Friday morning sitting atop the Eastern Conference.

"I tip my hat to our guys," Woodson said.

Woodson spent most of the day Thursday dodging questions about the difference between he and D'Antoni.

But he didn't really need to embarrass D'Antoni by explaining it.

He's made a strong case on the court.

With Thursday's win, the Knicks improved to 20-1 at home under Woodson. Overall, they are 35-11 under The Goatee.

"I think a lot of that has to do with this coaching staff really holding guys accountable," Chandler said.

Woodson's also succeeded largely where D'Antoni couldn't -- getting Anthony to buy in. Woodson also tweaked his offense to suit some of Anthony's strengths, such as playing in the post. That's something that D'Antoni did not do.

And he has the unquestioned respect of the locker room.

"He treats everyone the same," Chandler said. "It does not matter who he's talking to. He speaks to everyone the same way. He demands the same thing out of everyone and that's respect, hard work and being a professional."

So far, that's been a winning formula for Woodson's Knicks.