- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 11, 2008

From combined dispatches

Mike D’Antoni has agreed to coach the New York Knicks, bringing his entertaining offensive style from the Phoenix Suns to a team coming off one of the worst seasons in its history.

A person within the NBA told the Associated Press yesterday that the Suns coach has accepted an offer from the Knicks. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement had been made.

D’Antoni had two years left on his contract. Suns owner Robert Sarver wouldn’t confirm that D’Antoni had taken the New York job, but said, “Mike called me this morning to thank me, so I figured this was up.”

The offer is reportedly for $24 million over four years, making him one of the league’s highest-paid coaches. The Chicago Bulls also interviewed D’Antoni for their coaching job.

The Knicks said they would not comment. A message was left for D’Antoni and his agent, Warren LeGarie.

D’Antoni replaces Isiah Thomas, who was fired in April after the Knicks went 23-59, tying the franchise record for losses in a season. He becomes the Knicks’ sixth different coach since the start of the 2002-03 season.

The 57-year-old D’Antoni led the Suns to a 55-27 record last season and was coach of the year in 2005. He had a 232-96 regular-season record the past four years, but the Suns were eliminated in the first round by San Antonio last month. The Suns then gave D’Antoni permission to pursue other openings, but hoped he would remain with them.

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.

They’ve been just as dysfunctional off the court, with Thomas and Madison Square Garden found to have sexually harassed a former team employee and forced to pay $11.5 million. The affable D’Antoni should improve the Knicks’ image, even if it won’t be easy to make a winner out of the team.

ROCKETS: Forward Shane Battier and point guard Rafer Alston had minor surgical procedures to repair injuries that occurred late in the season.

Battier underwent arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs in his left ankle. Alston’s surgery repaired ligament and tendon damage in his right ankle. Both procedures were performed Friday.

Team doctor Tom Clanton said both players will be ready to play when the Rockets open training camp in the fall.

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