NEW YORK — So, for a change, the New York Daily News was correct; Don Chaney was, indeed, replaced on the Knicks’ sidelines by a former coach of the Cavaliers and Hawks who’s represented by Atlanta-based Lonnie Cooper (as is Isiah Thomas) . . . except it’s not Mike Fratello, it’s Lenny Wilkens.
Details. Details. Details.
Who among us isn’t almost as seriously stunned as News-breaker Mitch Lawrence?
On what once was the NBA’s most majestic stage, the 66-year-old Lazarus, er, Lenny (you know, they kind of look the same) was brought back to the lavish lifestyle he ate up for 29 seasons (which grew progressively unpleasant toward the end in Atlanta and Toronto) as a Hall of Fame coach and 15 as a Hall of Fame player.
Furnishing us with this raging debate: Which miracle is greater, Chaney not being given a contract extension prior to getting fired, or Wilkens suddenly returning from richly deserved oblivion?
Excuse me if I hold off praising Lord Thomas.
Whatever happened to giving Chaney the chance to stand tall?
Talk about an aborted short-term adjustment period. Not that I don’t understand Thomas’ quick hook.
Chaney’s recent decision-making to zone the sniper-infested Mavericks and cold shoulder his boss’ overture to tutor Stephon Marbury made it clear he was screaming to get rubbed out.
Still, why the heated rush to commit to Wilkens long term?
What’s so alluring about someone caked in formaldehyde?
A four-year contract!
The guy was out of the league, out of work and out of everyone’s mind but Thomas. He would have taken four months!
We’re talking New York, not York, Pa. Who wouldn’t roll over and bark for the prized chance to coach the Knicks?
It’s one of the most prestigious in any sport, let alone the NBA. Coaches would break contracts to own Madison Square Garden’s home court advantage.
What was the hurry?
Especially since the team’s rebuilding is in its infancy.
What would have been wrong with appointing an interim for the remainder of the season?
Wilkens would have been acceptable, I suppose, as a sub. Then again, how many Top 50 all-time point guards do the Knicks need bonding with Marbury at one time, anyway?
Thomas owed it to the organization’s future to scope out every feasible candidate and that couldn’t be accomplished in its entirety until the end of the season, when even superior coaches tend to get laid off.
Yes, Fratello, Doc Rivers, Doug Collins, Michael Woodson and Randy Wittman were thoroughly investigated and contacted over the last week before deciding on Wilkens.
But, if you want the absolute best for your team, shouldn’t Thomas at least have asked Pat Riley if he would be interested in coming back?
Shouldn’t he want to find out if Jeff and Stan Van Gundy have a brother?
Don’t Kareem and Mark Jackson deserve a meeting?
Guaranteed, Eric Musselman won’t be a Warrior when Chris Mullin takes over the front office next season.
Aren’t the Knicks on Larry Brown’s Top 20 Dream List?
Instead, Thomas lunged for Lenny.
He won more than Chaney and he lost more. Won an NBA title and Olympic gold medal.
In other words, he’s perceived as the one to get the Knicks to the suite level.
That’s the appeal.
Wilkens is an older version of Chaney.
Good guy, respectful of players, but not a threat to confront problems or light a fire under guys. And that’s what the Knicks — exempting Marbury and Kurt Thomas — crave.
They need a coach to drive them, someone who has them ready to kill coming out of the locker room.
“We hardly ever practiced,” an ex-Raptor testifies, dumbfounded by the hire, “and when we did practice we hardly did anything. We would be in the gym an hour and do nothing. We had to do extra stuff just to stay in shape.
“You’re never going to get a glare or a stare from Lenny. He’ll never freeze frame you for doggin’ it. There was never any accountability in Toronto or Atlanta.
Ask Dikembe. The Knicks need that. It’s one of the main things missing. Isiah brings it, but you need it down low, too.”
Considering Wilkens isn’t exactly Mr. Media, an ex-supervisor questioned how Wilkens would survive in the middle of the media capital of the world.
Overall, his viewpoint is relatively gentler than the above.
“Isiah injected respectability into the roster and now he’s injected new respect into the bench. Most veterans respect Lenny and the Knicks are mostly veterans. Eventually they’ll get tired of the same message.”
The bright side: The Knicks finally got that Celtic (Chaney) off their team.
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