Rumors have been swirling since last Friday that Phil Jackson had been contemplating the new offer from Knickerbocker CEO James Dolan that would include total control of basketball operations. Now all that appears left is finalizing the details of the contract.
So now that chapter one of this drama has apparently ended with the Dolan getting his man, it is time to move on to chapter two. A chapter that is sure to be considerably longer and juicier, given the track record of both Dolan and Jackson.
Dolan, as the head man at Madison Square Garden, has been considered a complete failure on and off the court. Lawsuits, losing seasons and bad contracts have been a staple of the Dolan regime with the Knicks. Enter Jackson, winner of 11 championships as head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers and two as a player with the Knicks.
On the surface, the fit is easy to see. Dolan needs Jackson desperately as he tries once again to revive the Knicks and make them relevant to anybody besides ESPN. Jackson is the ultimate winner in the modern NBA and, at the very least, buys Dolan some immediate respite from the avalanche of criticism he is currently under. Jackson is also viewed as the man with the necessary credentials to attract the best players, coaches and basketball people to New York City as he tries to change the fortune of his former team.
The problem with this scenario is Jackson has never run a front office, never served as a scout or a talent evaluator in any capacity and is infamous for not tolerating agents or some of the other ancillary issues that come with today’s NBA. Jackson also is not known for suffering fools for very long. Unfortunately for him, when it comes to basketball, Dolan falls in to that category. When the inevitable bumpy road comes along, the fallout will be a sight to see. Dolan has promised to not meddle in the affairs of the Knicks, but if he does, Jackson will likely not tolerate it.
The potential clash will overshadow the Knicks landing Jackson as a new drama unfolds in New York. It will start with Dolan assuring everyone that Jackson has full control and he will no longer be interfering with the on court issues that follow the Knicks. Maybe that will work out for Jackson, but for his own sake, he will keep in mind what happened to Indiana Pacers President Donnie Walsh in his dealings with James Dolan.
Walsh himself had total control with the Knicks in the not so distant past. He was assured by Dolan there would be no interference from him or anyone else with regards to the Knicks and that he could run things as he saw fit. Then Carmelo Anthony became available. Dolan concluded Walsh was not moving fast enough in trading for the star forward from the Denver Nuggets, so he swept in and gutted a young and promising roster behind Walsh’s back.
He overpaid for Anthony and lost Walsh in the process. There seems to be very little evidence things will be different with Jackson at the helm.
The common denominator for Knick failures has always been Dolan. For the Knicks to improve, Dolan will have to be a different owner than he has ever been before. The fact that Jackson may or may not turn out to be the right man is really the secondary question for New York Knick fans. The real question for them is still about the owner.
If Dolan will let Jackson do his thing, then perhaps the Knicks finally have a shot at gaining relevance in the NBA. If he cannot do what other great owners in professional sports have done and turn over the operations completely, then the joke is on Knick fans once again.
Closing the book on chapter one and moving on to chapter two looks to be under way for the New York Knicks as they have reportedly landed Phil Jackson. It has yet to be seen if this move is the right one. Plenty of qualified people have come and gone under the leadership of Dolan. Until Dolan proves otherwise, Jackson might be just another empty promise to Knick fans.
By Mick Varner