Phil Jackson is the next man up. First was Isaiah Thomas, then Donnie Walsh, and now Phil Jackson will attempt to resurrect this once proud franchise and bring them back into contention.
There are many different reasons to be for and against the Jackson hire as head of basketball operations with two standing out. Does he have cache? He has it up the ying yang. Does he have experience though in this role? Absolutely none. These seem to be the two major sides of the argument. The less spoken about but more interesting side is Jackson’s statistical analysis.
ESPN’s Henry Abbot wrote a great article on how Jackson annually shows up to the MIT Sloan Conference on sports analytics and largely ignores their potential impact on the basketball. No, analytics is not the almighty secret to team building but one would think it would certainly help.
Abbot also points out that the Lakers were noticeably absent from these MIT conferences when Jackson was with the organization and even shortly after. There is no doubt that if the arguably the best coach ever felt it was important to have a representative at MIT, one would have been there.
Jackson’s success as a coach has largely come from walking into a well put together roster and getting to the team to live up to its potential. That’s not taking anything away from him, 11 championships is 11 championships. It’s not a coincidence that MJ and Kobe have all of theirs and Shaq has all but one of his playing under Jackson.
The Zen Master though will now be playing the other role, the one he so thoroughly despised as a coach. Jerry Krause and Jerry West, the two GM’s largely credited with putting together the teams Jackson coached in the 90’s and early 2000’s both had their issues getting along with Jackson. Jerry West especially said he had “no doubt” that the former Knick had a lack respect for the logo.
Was that part of Phil’s personality though? Would he feel the same way about his coaches with the Knicks? He couldn’t fire general managers as a coach but as head of basketball operations he can pretty much fire anyone not named James Dolan (and too bad for that) without much resistance.
The hot rumor is that Jackson will hire Steve Kerr, who played for Phil on those late 90’s Bulls teams as the new Knicks head coach. Kerr is brilliant on TNT broadcasts and always makes for a great guest on whatever podcast, radio segment, or show he is on. Regardless of your feelings on Kerr, there is no denying the man’s basketball acumen.
The question then becomes though, Would Kerr be here for a quick rebuild attempt? Will Jackson, who turns 69 this year, attempt to rebuild on the fly or blow this thing up like it’s a moving vehicle in an action movie?
For years logic dictated that a first time coach took over a team with low expectations. Either a team that was stocked with young talent but no experience or a team that was about to start over, allowing the coach to have a say in who the franchise brings in.
The Nets hiring Jason Kidd changed the mold a bit, hiring a first time coach, only months removed from being a player, to coach a veteran win now team. The experiment started off disastrous but even the most ardent Knicks fans can’t deny how impressive it is how well the Nets have looked since the calendar flipped to 2014.
A quick rebuild though undoubtedly means bringing back Carmelo Anthony and likely on the max (despite what he says right now). Many are skeptical that Anthony is even Jackson’s ideal style of player. Former Nuggets coach when Anthony was there, George Karl, said as much on ESPN Radio’s The Herd: “To me, when you ask me that question, I don’t think Melo is a Phil Jackson type of player” and Jackson himself said he didn’t like how the ball stopped in Melo’s hands too often back in 2012.
Don’t forget, Phil actually tried to get Kobe traded from the Lakers back in the early 2000s. Jackson, who mostly speaks positively about Kobe now, also said back in 2012 that he tried to get Kobe to play more like Lebron for “years” and while it happened sometimes it clearly wasn’t successful overall. It’s unlikely he or any coach would succeed in getting Anthony to do that either.
Jackson’s hire looks to be solidified today but that may be the only thing certain about his tenure in New York, and that’s with the assumption that Dolan gives him the power to make all of these decisions. This has to be an optimistic moment for Knicks fans though because Jackson at worst should be better than whatever Steve Mills and Dolan had planned for this summer and beyond.