NEW YORK — Speaking with the media for the first time since having his own interim tag removed Tuesday, Knicks GM Glen Grunwald enthusiastically endorsed interim coach Mike Woodson but declined to say whether Woodson will return next season.
“Woody’s done a fantastic job,” Grunwald said before the Knicks beat the Chris Paul-less Clippers, 99-93, at MSG. “I can’t give him enough credit for the job he’s done. Normally coaching changes don’t result in such a dramatic improvement in a team’s performance so I think that speaks very well of him.”
Since taking over for Mike D’Antoni, Woodson is 17-6 and has led the Knicks to the postseason for the second consecutive year. They will finish as the No. 7 or 8 seed depending on the outcomes of Thursday’s games.
Still, Grunwald declined to say that Woodson would definitely return next year.
“We are not talking about any staffing changes today,” Grunwald said. “We need to stay focused on the moment. That’s why I don’t speak too often.”
Grunwald said he would likely work in concert with owner Jim Dolan and management to decide the team’s next coach.
“I would think it will be an organizational decision,” he said. “I’ll make my recommendations and we’ll work together to come up with the right decison for the team.”
Grunwald’s comments come on the same day that an Internet report suggested the Knicks might back up the truck and give Phil Jackson a four-year, $50-million deal.
Kentucky coach John Calipari has also been mentioned, though his arrival seems unlikely given the scope of Grunwald’s control and Calipari’s status in Kentucky.
Both Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire have endorsed Woodson’s return next year.
Woodson and Grunwald were teammates under Bob Knight at Indiana and Woodson said he was happy that Grunwald was named the permanent GM.
Grunwald declined to say how long his own contract extension is for.
“I couldn’t be more proud for the guy,” Woodson said of Grunwald. “He’s paid his dues, he’s been here working. He’s trying to do the things that’s necessary to build a basketball team and I think he’s done an excellent job in that area so the fact that they rewarded him with a contact speaks volumes, so I’m pretty happy for him.”
After a year out of coaching, Woodson returned to be D’Antoni’s defensive assistant in part because of Grunwald.
“He was one of the big reasons why I came here,” Woodson said. “I had other opportunities. I could’ve gone to Indiana or Utah.”
Woodson said Anthony and Stoudemire ”didn’t play hard enough” under D’Antoni, but believes that has now changed.
“Now we’re in the playoffs and we got a legitimate shot just like every team that made the playoffs,” Woodson said. “We’re going to have a legitimate shot to do something.”
Said Grunwald: “Sometimes it’s just a matter of change being a catalyst for waking people up and seeing how serious a situation could be.
“Mike [D'Antoni] stepping down, he saw it as he couldn’t do any more with this team. His frustration and his feelings about that maybe it was translating to he team. Woody came in and he was very positive. He’s a likable guy at the same time.. He will do what is necessary to get the team to play right.”
Looking ahead to the summer, Grunwald will face several key decisions on free agents Jeremy Lin, J.R. Smith and Steve Novak, as well as whether to pursue Steve Nash.
“I’m not focused on the summer right now,” he said. “Certainly I’ve thought about it, but I think we need to stay focused on the moment.
“The playoffs are on us. We have an opportunity as a team. Who knows when our next opportunity’s going to be to do something good so let’s stay focused on the playoffs right now, let’s do as well as we can and then let’s evaluate when it’s all done.”