Phil Jackson has been offered a front office position with the New York Knicks. A tumultuous 24-40 season has caused the Knicks to reach out to the 11-time NBA championship-winning head coach. According to ESPN’s SportsCenter, Jackson is leaning towards taking the Knicks job as president of basketball operations.
The Knicks are desperate to win immediately. Executive Chairman of the Madison Square Garden James Dolan, he also supervises day-to-day operations of the New York Knicks, expected his basketball team to contend for a title this year. The team has done the opposite by fighting to make a playoff spot. The Knicks are 10th place in the eastern conference standings and three and a half games outside the eighth playoff seed.
Front office management for the Knicks is an apparent weakness and theoretically where Jackson would step in. Referring to list of contract obligations for this and next year presents the evidence necessary. Amare Stoudemire is paid $21.5 and $23.5 million in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. Stoudemire’s production of 10.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game is costing the Knicks $262,000 a game. The service does not legitimize the cost. Andrea Bargnani is paid $11 and $12 million in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015. The Bargnani contract is another example of the unqualified management in charge of Knicks basketball operations.
On paper the Knicks are a talented team. An almost identical roster last year carried the Knickerbockers to the second round of playoffs where they eventually lost to the Indiana Pacers. The problem is that their roster is not cohesive and their dependence on streaky shooting is unsustainable. Management signed the best individual players, not the best team. This is evident when comparing the Knicks contract obligations to their regular season record.
The Knicks are quicksand until 2015, but a silver lining for the organization is their freedom of cap space in 2015-2016 seasons. The four biggest contracts expire at the end of 2014-2015.
The ideal situation for the Knicks is that Phil Jackson is contacted and hired as president of basketball operations in 2014-2015. Jackson and Carmelo Anthony sustain another disappointing season in 2014-2015, which appears inevitable for the mismanaged Knicks. However, Jackson’s presence in the front office helps the Knicks restructure contracts for their two best players, Tyson Chandler and Anthony, and secure an all-star during the highly anticipated 2015 free agent market. Free agents to build around Anthony and Chandler would be Kyrie Irving, Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love. Three of those four players are searching for their first ring.
Ideal situations are not always reality. The biggest problem in dream world is that Jackson has limited management experience. His most recent position was consultant for the Detroit Pistons when hiring a new head coach. The result was the hiring of Mo Cheeks. Cheeks was fired by the Pistons 50 games into the season.
The Zen Master has also expressed negative analysis of Anthony. Two years ago, Jackson called out the Knicks roster “clumsy” while singling out Anthony.
The Knicks contacting Jackson symbolizes their demand for a management change. The question remains if another big contract, which is a requirement for Jackson, is the directional shift for the Knicks after their experience this year.
Commentary by Niles Olson