The New York media cycle is relentless and often exaggerative. In The Rotten Apple, there’s no such thing as a “small story.” Phil Jackson understood that when he traded his peace of mind for a pot of gold and a membership in James Dolan’s snake pit.
Most media heads embrace Jackson’s arrival because it gives them fuel for producing stories and content. For the fans, anything is better than the mockery that became Mike Woodson and The Jerky Boyz. And any one that can give Knicks fans a better shot at retaining the services of Melo is welcomed by Knicks Nation. The news cycle never ends so expect The Knicks to be covered like a newborn in a snow storm. Phil hasn’t even picked an office secretary yet, BK is balling in the playoffs and pieces are already being written about him being at odds with Dolan over personnel.
I get the whole ESPN speed news culture. I get the fact that this is a nerve-wrecking and exciting time for a team that is looking to change its entire operational culture. Finally they have someone in the building who has won a ring after 1973.
I would caution my fellow sports media comrades to be easy on the Knicks and let Jackson get comfortable. There are so many obstacles ahead, from re-signing Melo and convincing him to take less cheddar to building a team for next season with very little cap flexibility and the usual empty treasure chest of draft picks. He has to build a relationship with Dolan, who already has “czar syndrome,” meaning he can say something on Tuesday and totally flip the script on Wednesday and see nothing wrong with it. Jackson’s not dealing with a basketball savvy owner, Dolan is a self-admitted basketball buffoon, but he’s also a boss of bosses in the corporate world so ultimately he still has the final say.
People are jumping on Dolan because he said Phil would have total control of basketball operations but he won’t let Phil clear house. Well, getting rid of the media relations and medical staffs doesn’t necessarily fall under “all basketball operations” and it’s reported that Dolan is resistant to some of the firings Phil wants to make.
I agree that the fates of Allan Houston, Steve Mills and the like should be left up to Phil. The choosing of a head coach, whether it be Steve Kerr or Mark Jackson is also Phil’s domain. But don’t for one Midtown Manhattan minute think Dolan is going to just let Phil have run of the Kingdom and fire and hire everybody from the cooks to the ball boys. Phil can sleep on the coach, use the ATM card, even throw parties at the crib, but he ain’t getting the remote control.
Lines of demarcation have to be established, and the intricacies and unplanned issues involving chain of command have to be resolved between Phil and Dolan (who must be made privy to where and how his money is being spent). That’s just business.
That will take place during the offseason as Phil compiles a roster, tries to secure Melo and goes through an evaluation process with current personnel. During this crucial period, the exchanges he has with Dolan about his ideas for the future will be the most vital moments in the early development of their relationship. Jackson has 11 rings, but a trust must exist between the two titans. That will take some time, and they are trying to do it in the midst of unprecedented franchise transition and uncertainty.
After the initial media rush cools off and everyone stops harping on every piece of information leaking out of Knicks land, and Brooklyn’s playoff run ends and Knicks beat writers don’t have to create news in order to make the back pages, Jackson will get to work for real.
Building a championship squad doesn’t happen in front of the cameras and in the media. It happens through scouting and hours of contemplation and analysis and deliberation between strong basketball minds with one winning objective. It happens in practice with players dedicated to a system run by a coach who commands respect and has some level of championship pedigree. All of the lower-tier success is tied in a bow and largely dictated by the failure or success of the front office.
No relationship is perfect, especially when you are dealing with huge egos. The fact that Dolan is willing to try and make it work is a step in the right direction and gives desperate Knicks fans hope. It keeps them off the ledge.
We can’t get caught up in what coach the Knicks are hiring and whether or not Dolan and Phil are holding hands and taking walks on the beach yet. How can we get into discussions about The Triangle or if Melo’s the type of superstar Phil can win with, when we don’t even know what kind of team the Knicks will have. Who the hell is playing?
NY doesn’t even know if its best player is coming back. We have no clue who Phil is bringing in over the next few years and who he’s keeping. According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, Phil has expressed optimism that even if Melo leaves, the extra cap space will give the Knicks an opportunity to build a winner from scratch.
Make no mistakes, the Knicks and Jackson are at the bottom of the Himalayan Mountains. They are still putting on equipment and testing the weather conditions in preparation for a long journey to the top. I’ll reserve my judgment until after this offseason. Right now, we have no clue of who the Knicks will be. They are a lame duck organization now, held captive by Carmelo Anthony in the same fashion that LeBron James had them paralyzed for a minute in 2010. Nothing can move until that situation is settled. Imagine the kind of media circus this summer’s free agent fiesta will yield.
Expect Phil and Dolan to bump heads some before establishing parameters for success. The Jordan Era Bulls owner Jerry Krause and Phil weren’t best friends. At times they detested each other, but they respected each other’s gangster. They understood the goal and at times reluctantly humbled themselves and made concessions. It lasted as long as it lasted, which was long enough to win six championships.
This isn’t a race and Knicks fans haven’t won a c’hip since a few years after Shaft dropped, so I’m sure that entire fast-moving NY contingent can be easy for a few years.
This isn’t the NFL combine either, and James Dolan isn’t Johnny Manziel. Let Zen Master do his thing and stop looking for reasons why it won’t work.