The New York Knicks media and its loud-mouthed, disgruntled and exasperated fan base demanded that the Knicks change their culture. That’s what Public Enemy No. 1—Madison Square Garden Chairman James Dolan—is desperately trying to do by offering Phil Jackson a front office position with the team. Jackson would probably fit into the mix in an advisory role and one would expect that if you are inviting a guy like Phil on board, his hand prints are going to be all over the organization.
The NY fans would welcome that, and Dolan needs the props right now. Knicks Nation despises Dolan, and largely blames his poor hires, suspect talent evaluation and indifference for the team’s failure to win a chip in over 40 years.
After being shut down by Jackson on the coaching tip, this latest attempt to lure the former Knicks hot-shot back into the organizational fold is actually a pathetic case of tail-between-your-legs begging, and the scene in the closed door meeting between the two parties would probably make the movie Steel Magnolias seem like a gangster flick. Dolan, who is trying to salvage any reputation he has left in the city as a basketball owner, probably sang this tune:
“Phil, please come back and save NYC. Name your price. My cup runneth over with ill-spent riches. You owe it to the town that cultivated your genius. And people actually hate my billionaire ass now. I don’t think I like it. Please Phil!”
The 68-year-old Jackson didn’t want Mike Woodson’s job because he’s savvy enough to recognize how to avoid suicide when it comes lurking. Coaching the New York Knickerbockers tends to tarnish legacies. This isn’t the first time his name has come up in Knicks rumors, but no amount of money could lure Jackson into embracing the suffocating pressures of coaching a franchise in shambles. I guess Dolan went for the next best thing, which will actually turn out to be the better move if it materializes.
With New York becoming Rumorstown USA, the Knicks went out and beat the Utah Jazz 108-81 on Saturday for their second-straight win. Woodson—whose existence has become strands of sand in an hour glass—wouldn’t entertain any Phil talk before the game.
“I really don’t have an opinion on it,” he said. I really don’t. I mean, again, as I sit here today, I’m the coach of the New York Knicks. And I’m not going to entertain anything about Phil. I have a great deal of respect for Phil but I’m not going to entertain anything about Phil Jackson. My job is to try to get this team to play at a high level and we have a big game tonight against Utah and we have to get ready to play.”
It’s being reported that Jackson will give the Knicks an answer by next week. Knicks fans better pray to the basketball gods that Phil is just bored enough to accept the position. There’s been talk that Jackson is not a big Melo fan and would welcome the “Scorelord’s” departure. Jackson once called NY’s roster clumsy and cited Melo in his criticism of the squad. You’d be a fool to believe that Jackson would accept the position without a Top 5 player to build around, so I wouldn’t study that.
Many people will call the move a typical case of Dolan posturing and deflecting attention from the real issues. The Knicks need more talent and there’s a damn good chance Melo will be leaving NY on a free-agent jet plane bound for anywhere but MSG once this wretched season ends.
For years Knicks fans have blamed the flawed personnel moves of GM’s like Scott Layden and Isiah Thomas and a myriad of losing coaches for the Knicks’ ineptitude on the court as well as the front office’s failure to build a successful franchise to rival well-oiled NBA victory machines such as the Spurs.
It may reek of desperation, but don’t knock Dolan for going for the gusto. He went for the rich, 6-foot blonde neurosurgeon instead of the drunk, fat and highly available brunette – what Woodson has become almost overnight.
Phil Jackson is the guy you call if you want a culture shift and credit Dolan for having the balls to go at Phil. He put his MSG-sized ego aside to holler at a guy who I’m sure is not easy to negotiate with, never tips his hand emotionally and knows that he has nothing to gain by trying to play Cedric The Entertainer in The Cleaner for a clueless Knicks franchise.
At the same time, let’s not forget Phil Jackson is a member of the only two Knicks championship teams in 1970 and 1973 and an 11-time world champion as the genius implementer of Tex Winter’s vaunted Triangle Offense with the Bulls and Lakers. Returning to his championship roots; the breeding grounds of his intellectual elevation and grit, is a fitting culmination to an already Zuess-like career.
Why not Jackson?
Given some time and full control of resources, he could surely do what Pat Riley has done with the Heat. Manhattan can use his Zen powers and basketball brains to bitch smack the Knicks back into relevance.
It’s also a part of a desperate move to retain Carmelo. There’s no one the Knicks currently have in their organization that has the championship pedigree and headlight- flashing hardware to convince Melo to stay in NY. The more he balls, the more it seems as if he’s an actor auditioning for the greatest role he’s ever played, and he’s committed to the role, but his heart is in another place.
Besides, how much can one Hall of Famer who busts his ass every night for meaningless glory take? Melo’s been balling with one foot in the Garden and one foot in his free agency courtship since the season popped off. He and La La have been throwing the media choreographed bones as they either set up their NY exit or commit to basketball hell for an extra $30 million beans.
Finally Dolan does something. That’s all most people wanted. Just show you have a freaking pulse and care about the fact that you have failed miserably as an owner to date. Show that you can make a move that is not the equivalent of buying a Porsche and crashing it off the cliff within an hour of driving it off the lot.
Jackson’s coached Jordan and inspired gold. He’s coached Kobe and Shaq and balanced the delicate egos of champion players with the intricacies and irrationalities of big-city expectations.
Knicks fans have been suckered into false optimism before, but it never came in the form of the Messiah himself. Even if NY can pull this off, it will take some time for Jackson to eradicate the Knicks current losing culture, but if Dolan is truly prepared to give the reigns to Phil, then history says Knicks fans have a lot to be amped about.