|D'Antoni accepts offer to become Knicks coach|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 10 May 2008 12:56|
The Knicks released a statement Saturday night saying they had agreed in principle with D'Antoni and that a press conference would be held once the contract had been completed.
D'Antoni had two years and $8.5 million left on his Phoenix contract. Suns owner Robert Sarver wouldn't confirm that D'Antoni had taken the New York job earlier Saturday, but said, ``Mike called me this morning to thank me, so I figured this was up.''
The offer is reportedly for $24 million over four years, making him one of the NBA's highest-paid coaches. The Chicago Bulls also interviewed D'Antoni for their coaching job.
Messages were left for D'Antoni and his agent, Warren LeGarie.
D'Antoni replaces Isiah Thomas, who was fired in April after the Knicks went 23-59, tying the franchise record for losses in a season. D'Antoni will become the Knicks' sixth different coach since the start of the 2002-03 season.
The 57-year-old D'Antoni led the Suns to a 55-27 record last season and was coach of the year in 2005. He had a 232-96 regular-season record the past four years, but the Suns were eliminated in the first round by San Antonio last month. The Suns then gave D'Antoni permission to pursue other openings.
New Knicks president Donnie Walsh had been looking for a coach since removing Thomas on April 18. Walsh previously met with former Knicks guard and television analyst Mark Jackson and Knicks assistant Herb Williams. But Walsh took his time to see what coaches would become available during the postseason.
He found one who won at least 54 games each of the last four seasons. The Knicks, meanwhile, are coming off their seventh straight losing season and haven't won a playoff game since 2001.
They've been just as dysfunctional off the court, with Thomas and Madison Square Garden found to have sexually harassed a former team employee and forced to pay $11.5 million. The affable D'Antoni should improve the Knicks' image, even if it won't be easy to make a winner out of the team.
Walsh acknowledges it will take time to rebuild the Knicks, and their roster seems ill-suited for D'Antoni's uptempo style. They are slow in the frontcourt with Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph, and the point guard situation is unclear with Stephon Marbury missing most of last season and coming off ankle surgery.
But D'Antoni quickly made Phoenix a winner after becoming their coach 21 games into the 2003-04 season. A short time later, the Suns traded Marbury and Penny Hardaway to the Knicks, clearing the way for the offseason blockbuster signing of Steve Nash.
Nash was a perfect fit for D'Antoni, and the Suns quickly became NBA darlings, their refreshing style far more entertaining than the plodding game of most teams. In the 2004-05 season, the Suns won 62 games, tying a franchise record, leading to coach of the year honors for D'Antoni and the first of two MVP awards for Nash.
But the Suns never made it to the finals under D'Antoni, losing to San Antonio three times and Dallas once. The acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal in February was designed to toughen the team and a better match for the Spurs. But after the Suns' five-game loss, D'Antoni's future with the organization became a subject of speculation.
President and general manager Steve Kerr, hired a year ago, acknowledged differences in philosophy, and eventually gave D'Antoni permission to speak with other teams.
Nash said Friday he believed D'Antoni would stay in Phoenix, and it's unclear where the Suns look now. But Kerr most likely will go after a more defensive-minded coach since defense was the biggest weakness under D'Antoni.
AP Sports Writer Bob Baum in Phoenix contributed to this report.