Phil Jackson’s comments about the New York Knicks on HBO’s Real Sports radio show caused quite a stir amongst the Knicks community. Jackson, once thought of as the Knicks’ savior, was reportedly never offered a job, as the Knicks’ front office instead chose to extend Mike Woodson. Jackson called the Knicks “clumsy” and said Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire don’t fit together.
“I wasn’t going to take the job; that’s for sure,” Jackson remarked.
Who’s to say the most successful coach in NBA history is wrong? Are the Knicks clumsy? Indeed. They had two different head coaches last year, five different starting point guards, two major winning streaks, and two lengthy losing streaks.
Does Amar’e Stoudemire need to play in an uptempo system, as Jackson claimed? Yes. His best seasons were in Phoenix and under Mike D’Antoni’s high-octane offense.
Does Carmelo Anthony need to move the ball more? You’re preaching to the choir, Phil.
Are Stoudemire and Anthony a bad fit together? That still remains to be seen, in my eyes.
Are we to believe Phil Jackson wouldn’t return to New York with a chance to win the city’s first basketball championship since he donned a Knicks uniform in 1973? With James Dolan’s pockets open to him? I have trouble believing that.
Yet through Jackson’s scathing, yet on-point remarks, there is a certain sound of confession. Jackson commented, “They need to have someone come in that can kind of blend that group together.” So is Phil Jackson not that coach?
Many Knicks fans were upset with the organization’s lack of a coaching search this offseason. When there were options out there, the Knicks played it safe when they should have been more experimental. Mike Woodson is a fine coach who did a solid job in his short time with the team, but when names like Phil Jackson and Jerry Sloan, or even Nate McMillan are out there, the Knicks should have done their research.
However, Phil Jackson’s system would have been a questionable fit as well. For all of the criticism Mike D’Antoni took for not making adjustments in his time with the Knicks (an often unfair criticism), Phil Jackson coaches teams one way: with the Triangle offense. After 11 championships as a head coach, Jackson would not have come into New York and completely changed his ways to suit the team. Jackson’s offenses function with ball movement, post-play, and strong outside shooting. I was too young to watch the 90s Chicago Bulls with a critical eye, but let us look at the Lakers for example.
Kobe Bryant: an all-world wing player, who thrives on mid-range jumpers and in the post; a talented passer when willing, but far more willing to shoot. The Knicks have that in Carmelo Anthony, albeit with less greatness than Kobe Bryant. There were Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum: two offensive-minded players with strong post games, and Gasol with his ability to knock down jumpers. The rest of the team was surrounded with shooters, the most consistent cog being Derek Fisher who played a similar role as Steve Kerr on Jackson’s Bulls teams.
These last two aspects are what the Knicks lack. Amar’e Stoudemire does not post up, instead opting for the pick-and-roll, or scoring on face-ups. Tyson Chandler dunks the ball.
And outside of Steve Novak, the Knicks did not have consistent outside threats. Their five starting point guards this season – Jeremy Lin, Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby, Baron Davis, and Iman Shumpert – averaged a combined 29.6% from 3-point range. Not exactly ideal outside shooting.
So maybe Phil Jackson didn’t want the job; maybe he wasn’t right for it. But to be honest, if Phil Jackson didn’t want the Knicks, then as a fan, I don’t want Phil Jackson.