Can’t be any worse than what they had.
Mike D’Antoni has accepted an offer to coach the New York Knicks, according to media reports.
The former Phoenix Suns coach, who was also sought by the Chicago Bulls, has accepted a four-year, $24 million deal to take over the Knicks, according to reports by Sports Illustrated and The Boston Globe, both citing a league source.
Two sources close to D’Antoni confirmed to ESPN.com that the coach has informed Knicks president Donnie Walsh that he’s accepting New York’s lucrative offer. The Knicks did not immediately confirm that D’Antoni is New York-bound.
Suns owner Robert Sarver wouldn’t confirm that D’Antoni had taken the New York job, but told The Associated Press, “Mike called me this morning to thank me, so I figured this was up.”
ESPN.com has been reporting since Thursday that D’Antoni was the Knicks’ No. 1 coaching target and that Walsh was preparing a significant offer. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported Saturday morning that the contract, which will make D’Antoni the league’s third-highest paid coach based on annual salary, had been officially extended.
D’Antoni takes over coaching duties for one of the league’s most high-profile franchies — and one that has fallen into disarray over the past two seasons under former coach and team president Isiah Thomas. Following a messy divorce with former coach Larry Brown, the Knicks went 33-49 in 2006-07 and 23-59 last season, tying the franchise mark for losses in a season.
D’Antoni had two years and nearly $9 million remaining on his contract with the Suns, whom he led to two Western Conference finals. The Suns were eliminated in the first round of the NBA playoffs this season after trading Shawn Marion for Shaquille O’Neal.
Mike D’Antoni coached his first Suns game on Dec. 11, 2003 and since then, Phoenix has the fourth-best record in the NBA. In the same span, the Knicks have the NBA’s third-worst record.
The two-team chase for D’Antoni intensified when he talked to the Bulls in a late-evening conference call with team officials on Friday. And the Chicago Tribune reported that Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who owns a home in the Phoenix area, planned to meet face-to-face over the weekend with D’Antoni.
D’Antoni has a 267-172 career coaching record with the Suns and Denver Nuggets. The Suns won at least 54 games in four of his five seasons and reached the Western Conference finals twice. He has a 26-25 record in the playoffs.
The Suns then gave D’Antoni permission to speak to other teams about openings, but hoped he would remain with them.
Instead, he becomes the Knicks’ sixth different coach since the start of the 2002-03 season.
New Knicks president Donnie Walsh had been looking for a coach since removing Thomas on April 18. He previously met with former Knicks guard and television analyst Mark Jackson and Knicks assistant Herb Williams. But he 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.