Not long before he died, John Wooden’s voice was on the other end of the telephone line. He was praising one of the newest members of a guardianship of acolytes, a football coach named Coughlin, but as he was doing so he did a brilliant job of boiling the essence of basketball down to a single sentence.

“The difference between looking smart and looking silly,” Wooden said that January day in 2008, “is sometimes the difference between a basketball sitting on the rim and falling through the net and sitting on the rim and falling harmlessly away.”

He laughed a frail but full laugh.

“That will keep you humble even if you live to be 100 years old.”

It is a lesson we need to remind ourselves constantly as we watch the Knicks in this rambling playoff spring. It is a testament to how long it’s truly been since they have been prominent playoff participants that it’s never been like this for the city’s foremost basketball team. During the 1990s, the Knicks lost plenty of playoff games, some of them in far uglier or unsetting fashion than the one they dropped to the Pacers on Sunday afternoon.

But those losses weren’t accompanied by gallons of bile on Twitter, by acres of angst on message boards and blogs. There was only one talk radio station in town then, so most of the outrage died while the first-time, long-times waited on hold. So even catastrophic losses didn’t seem so, well, catastrophic.

Everyone, it seems, wants to see Mike Woodson blow up his game plan now. They want to see him start a bigger lineup. They crave the old, 1970s hit-the-open-man Knicks (even if everyone would be shocked, if they ever cued up some old game film, to see just how much ball-stopping one-on-one the HTOM Knicks played). They want different lineup combos.