If there is a strong argument to keep interim coach Mike Miller for another season, it can be found in the growth of a certain 7-foot, alley-oop slamming, shot-blocking center from the Bayou.
Mitchell Robinson’s high-school coach, Butch Stockton, says Robinson’s improvement over the final two months of the season was a testament to how well Miller knew the Knicks center.
Stockton, the head coach of Chalmette High School (La.), remembers Miller as a new assistant coach coming to New Orleans last summer to work with Robinson, who in his second season will set the NBA record for highest field-goal percentage (74.2 percent) if the regular season doesn’t resume.
“I’ve talked to Mike several times,” Stockton told The Post from New Orleans in a phone interview. “Mike spent a lot of time in the summer working here with Mitch. Mike knows Mitch better than some of the other coaches because he spent so much time with him in the summertime. Mitch did like him. He could relate to him more for that reason, for all that time in the gym with each other.’’
As Westchester Knicks G-League coach, Miller was also the head coach of the 2018 summer league team in Las Vegas where Robinson excelled weeks after the draft. That is where the center announced himself as a steal at No. 36 overall.
Last summer, Stockton recalled Miller coming to town to hone in on Robinson’s “footwork, shooting, mid-range jumper and ballhandling.’’
“He worked to correct his form shooting the ball,’’ Stockton said. “They did a lot of shooting.”
Getting his confidence to shoot the mid-range jump shot – or a 3-pointer – is the next step in Robinson’s growth. He only took three jump shots this season.
“He was a very good shooter in high school,’’ Stockton said. “I think we’ll see Mitch shoot from outside in his third year. He works so hard at it. If he can shoot like I know he can shoot the ball, he’s going to be a big force on that court, especially if he’ll draw people out of that lane. That’s going to make that pick and roll even more successful.
“Mitchell is so coachable. He’s going to do what the coaches tell him to do. I think a lot of that offense is built for him to do the pick and roll this year. He’s going to set a screen and he’s going to roll because he finishes so well at the rim. You don’t want him to do what the team doesn’t want him to do. He’s been very coachable.’’
The 21-year-old big man has spent the suspension of the season in New Orleans working with his old trainer, Marcell Scott.
There is social-media footage of Robinson doing basketball drills with a group of guys surrounding the court at the Val Riess Sports Complex in Chalmette — seemingly in violation of NBA’s protocol of not visiting gyms.
An NBA spokesman declined comment.
Stockton has spoken to Robinson a couple of times since he returned home.
“I know he’s been running the levees,’’ said Stockton, who watches all the Knicks’ games on NBA League Pass. “Mitchell loves to play basketball. He misses playing. He misses playing in New York at the Garden.’’
That Robinson has emerged as a clear foundational piece/fan favorite only aids Miller’s chances of returning.
“I thought Mitch has gotten a lot better,’’ Stockton said. “He was real fluid. Running the floor well. Jumping and finishing everything above the rim. He’s improved tremendously from high school. We threw a lot of alley-oops to Mitch but he’s really improved his game tremendously. The Knicks have done a real good job developing him and getting toward to his full potential.”