Why, yes, the relationship between Mike D’Antoni and Carmelo Anthony during their brief time together with the New York Knicks really was that bad.
So bad, D’Antoni quit. And he clearly, and finally, admitted as much to ESPN The Magazine‘s Tim Keown:
In New York in 2012, after Anthony said the team needed to choose between him and D’Antoni, Mike made it easy.
“I just went in and quit,” he says.
“Don’t say ‘quit,'” Laurel says. “I hate that word. You resigned. You walked away. Mutually walked away.”
Mike rolls his eyes and turns to me.
“I quit,” he says.
We knew this of course, but it’s nice to have it out in the open, straight from one of the parties involved. Will Anthony ever cop to his role in the dissolution? Probably not. But this is an important part of his legacy, as is the way he came to the Knicks. He forced a trade, rather than using the threat to sign with them in free agency. That, in turn, convinced owner James Dolan to give up everything, and then some, to get him—a transaction that set the Knicks back years, maybe even more than a decade looking at where they are now. And then to force out a coach who was innovative enough to want him playing point forward from the 4 is just a terribly bad look.
Anthony has been absolved from most of his mistakes in New York, largely because Phil Jackson has turned him into a sympathetic figure by dragging his name through the mud time and again. But this is yet another reminder of why it’s so difficult to build around him.
More than that, it’s proof that D’Antoni was never given a fair shake in New York. Ditto for his stint with the Los Angeles Lakers. He isn’t someone you hire to coach a team that doesn’t encapsulate his ideals. And that’s fine.
His system, as we’re seeing with the Houston Rockets, is good enough to tailor the roster around. That he was ever blackballed, even if it was by the media and fans more so than basketball people, remains one of the most ridiculous coaching developments in recent memory.
At least now, for D’Antoni’s sake, he appears to be getting the last laugh.