At 68 years old Phil Jackson had to be having a heck of a time trying to scratch his basketball itch. Why else would he be returning to the NBA with the dysfunctional Knicks squad? Can Phil Jackson save the Knicks? He sure thinks he can.
Originally, Knicks brass led by owner James Dolan approached Jackson to possibly coach the team. Jackson eventually turned down the offer but a front office position became a real possibility during the discussions. After several days of suspense, Jackson decided to take the job as President of Basketball Operations.
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Phil Jackson. The Knicks in the 1967 NBA draft selected him 17th overall. The 6’8 power forward played ten seasons with the Knicks. That same year his draft class included Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Clyde “The Glide” Frazier. Although he never equaled those greats on the floor as a player, his legend as a coach is unquestioned.
The hiring has the basketball world abuzz. Jackson’s decision affects both coasts in the NBA world. The Lakers were under pressure from Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson to hire Jackson. Johnson even took to twitter to implore Jeanie and Jim Buss to hire Jackson for the Lakers front office. Ironically Jeanie Buss is Jackson’s fiancée’ but it appears that the pleas to hire her beau have fallen on deaf ears.
As the President of Basketball Operations, Jackson will run the team mostly from his California home. He plans to be in New York, perhaps 35% of the time. Given the state of the Knicks roster and contract situations, he may want to find a way to spend 110% of his time in the third row of Madison Square Garden.
Sources say that Jackson’s pick to coach the team next year could be Steve Kerr, former Bulls sharpshooter and deposed Phoenix Suns General Manager. It seems to be a forgone conclusion that current coach Mike Woodson won’t be back.
Phil Jackson’s hiring can have a major impact on free agency moves. With big names like Kevin Love, LeMarcus Aldridge and even Carmelo Anthony being available, a name and pedigree like Jackson’s can land those big names and more. Jackson’s name alone seems able to save the Knicks. Or at least keep them relevant.
Carmelo Anthony has already said that he wants to sit with Jackson before he makes his decision to opt out of his current deal. 11 rings are that impressive. Everybody loves a winner and Jackson is just that.
The big question seems to be that with all of his acclaim and jewelry, what makes Dolan or even Jackson believe he is the man to turn around the NBA’s most mixed up team? Amongst his 11 championships, never has Jackson negotiated a contract or gotten an opposing general manager to take on a bloated and toxic contract, and the Knicks have plenty of those. Will the mystique of the man be enough? This year is a wash. However, next season either one of two things will happen. Either Phil Jackson saves the Knicks, thereby adding to his legacy, or the blight of the NBA’s worse organization will tarnish one of the leagues greatest coaches.
Editorial by Tony Bowers