Posted Aug 29 2011 12:27PM - Updated Aug 29 2011 2:27PM
NEW YORK (AP) -- Mike Woodson is coming to New York to help the Knicks' defense. Just don't call him a defensive specialist.
The Knicks hired the former Atlanta Hawks coach on Monday as an assistant to Mike D'Antoni, and both coaches insisted Woodson's focus won't be limited to one area.
"I'm not going to sit here and say that I'm just a defensive coach. I can help Mike, I think, offensively as well,'' Woodson said during a conference call. "I'm just a coach and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to come in and do that.''
Woodson led the Hawks to three playoff berths in his six seasons in Atlanta, but was let go after they were swept in embarrassing fashion by Orlando in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals.
He interviewed for the Detroit job that instead went to Lawrence Frank and also was a candidate in Houston, but now will try to help D'Antoni address the Knicks' longtime struggles on the defensive end.
Yet D'Antoni also tried to downplay the notion of a "defensive specialist.''
"I don't know where that came from, other than people writing about it. But he's a good coach,'' D'Antoni said. "We expect him to add in a very positive way: defensively, offensively, big guys, small guys. Whatever we need as the Knicks organization for him to do, he'll be able to do. He's an extremely talented coach.''
Woodson began his pro playing career with the Knicks as the No. 12 pick in the 1980 NBA draft out of Indiana, where he played with former New York coach and president Isiah Thomas, and current general manager Glen Grunwald.
As an assistant to Larry Brown in Detroit, Woodson was credited with building the defense that helped the Pistons win the 2004 NBA championship. He was then hired in Atlanta, where he increased his win total every year from 13 in his first season to 53 in 2009-10. But the Hawks lost their four second-round games to the Magic by an average of 25.3 points, the most lopsided sweep in NBA history.
He gets back to work now with a Knicks team that has plenty of offense with Amare Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, but remains one of the league's poorest defensive clubs, ranking near the bottom in points per game allowed (105.7) and opponents' field goal percentage (47.2).
That's led to frequent calls that D'Antoni, whose strength has always been his offensive schemes, needed to hire a coach to address the defense. Though he said "we didn't need a voice,'' he added the Knicks were open to bringing someone in and decided after talking to a few of them that Woodson can have the "most impact on our team.''
"He just fills the bill in a lot of areas,'' D'Antoni said. "But I think the biggest area is that he's a really good coach and really good guy, and very loyal, and those are the things that a head coach can't live without.''
Especially one who is entering the last year of his contract. But D'Antoni and Woodson said that wasn't an issue because there were expectations with all coaching jobs.
Woodson said he can also offer input about offense, as well as help D'Antoni work with young players. He'd have preferred to be running a team again, but was glad for the chance to get back on the bench.
"I'm just a coach that's looking for an opportunity. I have experience and I'm just excited about the opportunity,'' Woodson said. "That's all a coach in this league can ask for.''
Terms of Woodson's deal were not disclosed.