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News » Even if he loses, D'Antoni says he'll stay patient

Even if he loses, D'Antoni says he'll stay patient

Even if he loses, D'Antoni says he'll stay patientSARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) - Mike D'Antoni could be forgiven if he sometimes catches himself daydreaming of Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire executing the perfect pick-and-roll.

Perhaps he occasionally closes his eyes and pictures LeBron James or some other superstar finishing on the fast break.

When he opens them again, he sees a New York Knicks team that is given little chance of winning big this season.

Yet D'Antoni vows to stay patient and positive, even if he suddenly racks up losses as quickly as his old Suns teams used to pile up points.

"You have to have a plan," D'Antoni said Wednesday. "I would be very selfish. I tell players to sacrifice all the time. If the plan is that we've got to do this, then what does that tell me if I can't do it?"

It won't be easy though.

"If we don't win, it's going to be hard," said his brother, Dan, a Knicks assistant. "You can be patient, and he understands that. But it's hard to choke it back. He wants to win, he thinks he can win."

The plan Mike D'Antoni alluded to was the Knicks' goal of being in position to make a run at James or some other free agent next summer, when a deep class of free agents will be available. To do that, they traded away their top two scorers, Jamal Crawford and Zach Randolph, early last season to free up salary cap space, then did little to upgrade this summer, choosing to save their money instead.

It was somewhat lousy timing for D'Antoni. After the Knicks threw away money on bad contracts for most of the decade, he arrived in time to see them become financially responsible. Still, team president Donnie Walsh said his coach has never come to him with a request to get him better talent now.

"We talk every day and he knows," Walsh said. "Look, we would get a player if the guy was somebody we knew we wanted to live with, but we're not taking chances. So no, he hasn't. He understands what we're trying to do."

He can't like the effect it will have on his career record. The Knicks went 32-50 last season and it's possible D'Antoni could lose 100 games in two seasons in New York. Isiah Thomas was fired for that.

D'Antoni knew only winning in Phoenix, where he averaged 58 victories in his four full seasons and twice reached the Western Conference finals. He was considered an offensive genius and a star in the coaching business - but of course he had All-Stars like Nash and Stoudemire. Becoming a great coach often involves having great players first, and right now D'Antoni doesn't.

"That's amazing, isn't it? That's how it is. That's how it usually works," D'Antoni said. "But I don't think you get into that. I've never been into that."

No player on the Knicks roster has ever been an All-Star. A coach like Larry Brown loves having players who are low on star power so he can teach them. Many coaches would probably prefer it the other way.

"I think Mike is halfway of that," Dan D'Antoni said. "Winning drives him, but he loves basketball and he loves getting guys to a certain level. So I think he's not quite Larry Brown, he's probably not Pat Riley. He's probably somewhere in between.

"He understands we're going to have to do a teaching job, that it's not going to be instant wins, that there is going to be a stepping process. But certainly he thinks and we think the organization and coaches are up to that task and that the players will buy in."

Mike D'Antoni said the Knicks will have to overachieve this season to make the playoffs, but he believes they can. More likely, their lack of talent will keep them out of the postseason for the ninth straight year.

Walsh's plan has risks. The Knicks could strike out in free agency and be right back in the same place when they open camp next fall. But D'Antoni is on board, and he won't rock the boat.

"This is fun, I love it. It's a challenge and I'm with our guys, and you know what, if we lose, we lose," D'Antoni said. "But if we do everything we're supposed to do and that's what happens to us, then so be it. I'm OK with that."

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 30, 2009


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