Phil Jackson will be bringing his Hall of Fame career full circle by returning to the New York Knicks as team president. Jackson will be paid $12 million per year, a five-year deal worth about $60 million.
The Knicks haven’t been successful in 2014 with basketball moves or decisions. This isn’t anything new to long-time fans of this team. Inconsistency and poor decisions off the court have led to year after year of failure on the court.
Jackson’s reported hiring comes with the heavy task of taking over a team that’s fell short of expectations this season, along with the long-term future of Carmelo Anthony in a Knicks uniform seriously in doubt.
This is a franchise that hasn’t won an NBA championship in 41 years. They don’t just need a change in culture, they need credibility, direction and stability.
Jackson’s resume provides those three qualification. After all, he has 11 NBA championships as a head coach respectively with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, and two more as a player with the Knicks.
Jackson will be asked to take on a role he’s never been in before, and he will be expected to produce results right away. History has shown it can work.
Jerry West (Lakers), Pat Riley (Miami Heat) and Danny Ainge (Boston Celtics) are all cases to look at as proof that it’s possible for Jackson to make the jump from head coach to basketball executive. Isaiah Thomas … not so much.
It will take much more than a philosophical and zen-like approach to the game that Jackson has famously put on the map; he’s going to have to surround himself with the right people in order to succeed as an executive now.
However, the elephant in the room with all of this is just how involved in Jackson’s day-to-day management of the Knicks will their owner be?
The owner in question happens to be James Dolan. A successful businessman when it comes to selling tickets and making money. He knows he has one of the more profitable teams in professional sports, capitalizing on playing in New York City.
Time will tell if hiring Phil Jackson goes down as another high-profile move to quiet long-time and hard-core Knicks fans that are starving for a championship — or if he’s legitimately trying a change in approach to become a winning basketball team.
This could be the deciding factor in determining how far the union between Jackson and the Knicks will last.
It’s become an all too familiar sub-plot that Dolan doesn’t take kindly to employees who can’t follow the rules on successfully remaining employed by him. Larry Brown and Donnie Walsh are two of the more respected names in the league. I’d love to ask them how much they enjoyed their respective times working for Dolan.
From Glen Grunwald to Steve Mills, it seemed there was arguably a better chance of having a say on foreign policy than either of them talking to anyone without Dolan’s approval. How can this culture that’s dominated most of Dolan’s run as the Knicks owner mesh with the proposed change that Jackson will be aiming to implement?
The argument can be made that there isn’t a room big enough for the egos of Jackson and Dolan; that this is will go down as yet another failed publicity stunt by Dolan disguised as a basketball decision aimed at wining a championship, that Jackson’s only reason (besides $12 million per year) for taking this job is to stick it to the Lakers for not bringing him back there.
The first item of business to address most likely will be who’s coaching this team going forward? The odds of Mike Woodson returning next season were already slim-to-none before any mention of Jackson’s pending arrival.
The next item will almost for sure be the upcoming free agency of Carmelo Anthony. It remains to be seen how much of an influence Jackson’s credibility will have on Anthony to commit another five years in New York, along with how much Dolan involves himself in those negotiations.
The bottom line is that it has to work and if it doesn’t work, then nothing much else will while Dolan has ownership of the Knicks. If Jackson is to succeed in changing the culture of this team, Dolan himself has to buy into the plan.
If Anthony stays or leaves, eventually the Knicks will have enough money again to spend in free agency, and Dolan will have to trust in whatever approach Jackson wants to go in. He can’t just throw money at Jackson to come in and be a face for everyone to see, meanwhile undercutting his every planned move to reshape that roster.
History has shown that he’s been unwilling to take such a big step back, to eat such a big slice of humble pie. I’m not in the group of those who believe Dolan doesn’t want to win a championship, however I am in the group that thinks his pride and ego has blocked him from going about it anyway differently.
Jackson has just as much ego and pride as Dolan does. He’s well aware of his place in NBA history with all of those NBA championship rings. What better last run could be envisioned than to return to the team where it basically all began and restore it to the championship glory of decades ago?
Jackson is coming here to win and do it his way, and Dolan’s wallet is big enough to afford offering him the chance to do it here.
All that remains is if these two sides can play nice together long enough to turn this laughingstock into a union of success.