/ |

Knicks should keep Woodson as coach

by Peter Vecsey

As long as the Knicks make the playoffs and, you know what, even if they don’t due to injuries, Mike Woodson will be the team’s biggest winner this season.

If this was an audition for an NBA head coaching job next year, he’s guaranteed to get the part. It’ll be up to Woodson to choose where to work. The opportunities will be plentiful, the offers fast and furious.

“Vacancy” signs will be flashing outside Portland, Washington and Charlotte, for sure, and figure to be lit up in Orlando, Los Angeles (should the Clippers crumble prematurely) and maybe even Phoenix, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

Though it’s probably too early to reach any definitive decision, I fully expect James Dolan will lock up Woodson long-term long before the bidding can commence.

Isiah Thomas and Glen Grunwald are ardent advocates, and Bob Knight refuses to turn pro.

What else is there to know?

In that there is no salary cap restraint when hiring coaches, Dolan, of course, can always financially trample the competition.

Still, if the Camp Cablevision chief likes someone, he often makes a command move before we anticipate it.

What’s not to like?

The short-stacked Knicks are 9-2 since Woodson inherited Mike D’Antoni’s hemorrhaging hub.

“His best asset is that he lives with his players’ limitations, instead of calling them out and publicly pinpointing them,” notices column intelligence officer Sam Lefkowitz.

And so, why stand in line when you have the power to prevent it from forming?

By the way, Tom Thibodeau’s claim is lame that he’s unconcerned next year’s option has yet to be have been exercised, or that the Bulls haven’t offered him a new deal. “His tip jar in the locker room suggests otherwise,” rebuts column chondriac Richie Kalikow.

The reason Milwaukee is mentioned as possibly having an opening is, in part, because Scott Skiles has his home for sale. Said he’s looking to downscale.

Maybe so, but listing it while the season is in progress made everyone within the organization more nervous than they already were.

What kind of message does that send to the players, sponsors, season ticket holders and the owner, Senator Herb Kohl?

History tells us, Skiles gets psychologically toasted near the end of his contract, as do his players. It happened in Phoenix and it happened in Chicago. He asked to leave in both instances, feeling he had lost the team.

In each case, ownership gave permission and generously deducted a mere $1 million from the total amount.

A week or two prior to the March 15 trade deadline, the Bucks — players, staff and front office — sensed Skiles was getting frustrated, raising concern he was losing interest, again.

Nobody in the know can say Skiles was about to quit. Still, people were uneasy with what might be coming. After all, this is four years in Milwaukee, going on five.

There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind the acquisition of Monta Ellis has reinvigorated him . . . for how long, is anybody’s guess.

The consensus of consenting adults identifies Skiles as one of the NBA’s top five coaches. He ascended to the top of the brain chain almost from the moment he checked into the league, which will mean zilch should he decide to check out on such a nasty number — $5 million.

I have hall-monitored the soon-to-be-retired senator since he purchased the Bucks in 1985 from the eminently honorable Jim Fitzgerald. And one thing is for certain: Kohl will not pay a penny to a person who’s not on the job.

I listed Philly as a prospective employment site because Doug Collins is permanently in danger of suffering an emotional breakdown. His 29-22 76ers may be fourth in the East, but they’ve been a wreck (9-14) since Feb. 15.

A cavalcade of couches (coaches, too) are inching their way toward the City of Brotherly Love should the 76ers get totaled in the wee hours of the playoffs.

In spite of the Suns’ relative success (“We’ve overachieved thus far, frankly,” Steve Nash said Friday), the vibe in Phoenix is that Alvin Gentry might not be rehired when his contract expires at season’s end.

In my preseason preview, I predicted Gentry would be the first coach cannibalized. Although he’s one of the lowest paid in the fraternity ($1 million, maybe less), I presumed he couldn’t survive with a cupboard so ridiculously bare.

Especially when it was clear no major changes would be made until 2012-13 when owner Robert Sarver has a league-leading $31,582,020 of cap space funds to sprinkle among free agents.

Problem is, there isn’t a franchise player/go-to-guy on the unrestricted lot, other than Deron Williams, and he’s seemingly committed to the Nets; if not, the Mavericks would appear to be his choice. I suspect the Lakers will pick up Andrew Bynum’s $16.1 million option.

Ersan Ilyasova and Nicolas Batum will seriously enhance any starting lineup, but don’t qualify as anchor pieces, but I wouldn’t mind representing them, that’s for sure.

Lou Williams will relocate in that same category when he opts out of the last year ($5.351 million) of his 76ers’ contract.

Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.