D’Antoni’s departure a stunning end in New York

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NEW YORK (AP) - Mike D'Antoni waited nearly four years before he could re-create the high-octane success he had in Phoenix, and for three exhilarating weeks in February, the New York Knicks were the NBA’s team to watch.

They played fast and fun, sharing the ball and sharing laughs, and their coach enjoyed the ride as much as anyone.

Just as quickly, it was gone again. And now, so too is D'Antoni, a casualty of the forces generated by a mercurial owner perpetually rebuilding the roster, the caprice of a star player and the heightened expectations of a fan base desperate for a winner.

He resigned Wednesday, a stunning finish for a coach who only a month earlier seemed rejuvenated by Jeremy Lin.

“Nobody saw it coming,” said Carmelo Anthony, the star who was sidelined when Lin emerged and seemed unlikely to ever mesh with him the way D'Antoni wanted after he returned.

That meant Linsanity couldn’t last, and D'Antoni may have realized it first.

Lin had come from the end of the bench to play so well that D'Antoni would compare him to Suns star Steve Nash, who ran his wide-open offense better than anyone. The undrafted Harvard point guard outplayed Kobe Bryant one night, toppled the champion Dallas Mavericks another, and D'Antoni had that feeling again that his team could outscore anyone.

“You know what, I think at that point in time we started to play well and he started to build on that offense,” forward Amare Stoudemire said.

The Knicks won seven straight, leading newscasts on a nightly basis for the first time in memory.

But D'Antoni also had the same fear as many fans. He knew Anthony would soon be back from injury, and his vision of beautiful basketball would stop.

And when that happened, followed by reports of the friction it created between the coach and star, D'Antoni decided it was time to walk away.

“He had a certain ideal of a system we were supposed to implement,” said Stoudemire, who also played for D'Antoni in Phoenix. “We all didn’t quite buy into it, and he got frustrated and I think that’s why he took his way out.”

His departure may have been hardest on Lin, who was barely hanging on to an NBA job before D'Antoni’s schemes catapulted him onto two straight Sports Illustrated covers and TV screens around the world.

“Obviously, I miss him a lot,” Lin said after the Knicks‘ 121-79 victory over Portland under interim coach Mike Woodson. “What he did for me and my career, I’m not going to forget. I’m not going to forget what he did for me personally. Just very emotional and sad to see him go. I owe a lot to him.”

Minutes after he spoke, it was clear the same affection didn’t exist between D'Antoni and Anthony.

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