So it has come to this. In an attempt to bring some relevance to this team and legitimize its operation the Knicks have attached its most famous wandering son to a front office position. Not that any deal is finalized, but something is in the works according to a Daily News report. If Phil Jackson were to accept the offer made by the Knicks to come back to the team that introduced him to winning NBA championships, it would send several ripples throughout an organization that has been mismanaged from top to bottom for far too long.
To be clear, I don’t know if Phil Jackson would make a great executive. We know he can coach. We know he enjoys being in the spotlight. We also know that he loves LA. But my personal hunch is, from my detached far away from success standpoint, that people like Phil don’t just suddenly give up the opportunity to win. Its why management often throws piles of money at guys who have seemingly past their prime as if there is a cut off age for everyone to stop what they are doing. They know that while money is motivation, its the love of winning and perhaps just as important, the stench of losing that drives these men.
Larry Brown, Knick fans remember him, is 73 and he’s currently leading the SMU Mustangs to its first NCAA tournament appearance in more than 20 years. Guys like Brown don’t just love the fame and the money, they love basketball for reasons that go beyond the superficial. I’m not waxing poetic on a guy like Larry Brown who’s been known to leave one place for greener pastures elsewhere, but one thing can’t be understated: don’t think its all about the money.
I sat thinking about three things in regards to this Phil Jackson rumor:
1. What would it take for Phil Jackson to come to the Knicks?
2. What would be the reason Phil Jackson took this position?
3. Why are the Knicks constantly coming to the well of the old master Phil everytime there’s uncertainty going on about the organization?
Let me preface this by saying I have no insider information and this is just one man’s humble opinion but Phil would need to be given certain guarantees in his contract to consider working for the Knicks. Let’s first start with control. If Phil were to come, it would be under the condition that he would have complete unilateral control of the Knicks which would be a huge give by James Dolan, the owner of the Knicks. Its also a well known fact that CAA, the agency who has almost every big superstar in basketball signed to their company, has the ear of the owner of the Knicks as well. More on them later.
No one knows who else has Dolan’s ear but its clear to almost every Knick fan that whoever does has zero interest in building a solid product here in the “basketball mecca”. I always joke around that if the Knicks had an iota of intelligence in that front office, superstars would be lining up to play at the Garden. Say what you will about how overblown the concept is to today’s NBA player, but the Garden is a recognized commodity within the basketball intelligentsia who saw more than its fair share of great high school and college games played here. It was also the home to many sporting events outside of basketball that are forever a part of America’s storied sports past. Basically the name rings out in the streets. It is however, painfully clear that there are far too many voices in James Dolan’s head talking at once and he has to cede his control to someone he absolutely trusts. Phil Jackson, for all we know, may be friends with Dolan and there may be a level of understanding between the two that go beyond just basketball. But if there isn’t, Phil would need assurances that he would not be effed with when making a basketball decision. And why shouldn’t Dolan cede control? Its clear that even in the last decade of futility the Garden was making money hand over fist so there shouldn’t be a fear of losing money even if, at first, the Knicks may have to reset.
Phil’s health is also a major concern. We don’t know how many surgeries Phil has had and whether he would consider relocating from Los Angeles where he lives with Jeannie Buss. Would Phil give up 70 degrees year round for a foot of snow every so often in the Northeast? More on that later.
The idea of Phil taking the position makes a ton of sense. Like I stated earlier, guys like Phil Jackson don’t take jobs like this at this stage of their lives for the money. Jackson’s legacy is set. He’s won 11 championships as a head coach and won two as a player in New York. If anything he could say that he achieved the task of winning in New York. But for guys like Phil maybe the idea that his legacy isn’t complete eats up at him. Maybe going back to New York would energize him and give him purpose. I mean how long can you fly fish in Montana or ride your Harley in LA in perfect weather for? Even if that sounds like a slice of heaven? Ok, I’m not helping I know.
Finally, we all know why the Knicks are approaching Phil. There’s plenty of reasons. Look at the current Knick three game winning streak? Maybe the players are under the illusion that Phil is coming and are viewing this time as an audition? The Knicks aren’t a good team and yet are showing glimpses of the 54 win team they were last year. There’s that Carmelo Anthony guy we’ve been hearing attached to Miami and Chicago recently. His decision this summer will ultimately guide what the Knicks do next year. If he leaves, they will definitely trade Tyson Chandler to a contender and try to carve out more cap space for 2015 even though merely letting Amar’e walk and not having a $23M cap hit on Carmelo would probably do the trick. But if Phil comes Carmelo will feel like the Knicks are moving in the right direction because that’s what Phil represents. He represents championships and winning and Carmelo can get down with that. And you know who else can get down with that? Other superstars who still view Phil in high regard.
While there are a ton of reasons why this would be good for the Knicks one thing is clear, the Knicks are star gazers. Wishing on any shooting star that passes, hoping that their wish will come true. This shooting star has a ton of questions surrounding his health and ultimately the power he will be given to make decisions. Maybe he won’t be good at being a GM. Look at Michael Jordan? The power with being that good at one thing is that you start believing you’re good at everything and Mike fell into that trap. He’s the guy who drafted Kwame Brown number one ahead of guys like Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, Joe Johnson etc. He’s the guy who has never produced a .500 or better team in his tenure as GM or owner. Nothing is promised to guys who go on to try things other than what they are known for. I truly believe God put us all on this earth for one thing, and one thing only. Some, like Mike and Phil found their niche. They worked hard and achieved the impossible.
In the end, I don’t think God put Phil on this earth to run the Knicks. The devil put James Dolan here to mock all of us Knick fans for believing the rumors.