The resignation today of New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni followed a quiet campaign against him by his own players, a source told BuzzFeed.
The players have been “trying to fire the coach” for a while now,” said a source familiar with conversations between Knicks point guard Baron Davis — one of the plotters — and other players. “They can do that.”
The pressure from the team, driven in part by star forward Carmelo Anthony’s unhappiness with the coach’s fast-paced system, helps explain the murky timing and motivation around D’Antoni’s decision. Though the team is currently in the midst of a six-game skid (their second such losing streak of the season), and “Linsanity” seems like a distant memory, the decision took many observers by surprise. After all, the Knicks still find themselves in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and D’Antoni is under contract for the rest of the season. Why resign when a surprising playoff run — which doesn’t seem out of the question with a team this talented — would go a long way toward healing any ill will?
This news comes on the heels of the New York Post’s report that Carmelo Anthony wanted to be traded out of New York because he felt that D’Antoni, along with Knicks GM Glen Grunwald, didn’t trust him and that the team “makes believe his opinions don’t matter.” It was the latest in what seems to be a series of statements made by players hoping to undermine their coach.
After an ugly loss earlier this week to the Philadelphia 76ers, Anthony complained about the team’s mindset (a criticism that falls on the coach’s shoulders). “When we get down, it just seems like our whole energy just goes out the door.” He added that the team had “no type of confidence out there.”
According to the New York Times, this fear of a growing problem with the team’s “mindset” was echoed by fellow star Amar’e Stoudemire, who addressed it after the Knicks’ loss to the Chicago Bulls on Monday night:
“The joking around has to stop at some point,” he said. “We got to take this game very serious, especially in a time where now we’re in the 8th seed and we’re not playing well. So the time is now.”
Representatives of the Knicks and of Davis didn’t respond to inquiries from BuzzFeed.