Stop worrying about that silly 8th seed race and raise your heads high, New York Knicks fan. Yesterday marked the beginning of a new era for the New York Knicks, and something tells me James Dolan means it this time.
In the first hour of the Phil Jackson era, we learned that ticket prices will not be raised next year, Phil will have complete authority on all basketball making decisions, and MSG’s dreaded media policy might be coming to an end in hopes of creating new transparency between the team and fans. It’s like the Basketball version of Pope Francis’s first moments in Rome. If you don’t share the unbridled optimism that I’m feeling, I can’t blame you. We’ve been through this before with Larry Brown nearly a decade ago, and very recently with Donnie Walsh. I also probably don’t have to remind you that each of those marriages ended in embarrassing fashion.
What makes me feel different this time though comes from Dolan’s inexplicable media tour he gave yesterday. Once known for being as silent as Clearance Thomas, Dolan has suddenly turn into a media darling, thanks in part to his candidness with Michael Kay and Mike Francesa yesterday afternoon. Instead of defending his decisions and showing indifference to the pain fans have went through this season, we learned that he was “horrified” by the Knicks poor season and admitted that he was “in over his head” on running the Knicks. He even told the media he was “by no means an expert in basketball” and that he was ceding complete control to Phil both “willingly & gratefully”. When asked if Phil thought letting Melo walk would be the best course of action for the Knicks, Dolan defiantly said, “It’s Phil’s decision. That’s our agreement”. My favorite line of all though came when Mike Francesa asked him why he was suddenly being so open with the media. Without missing a beat, Dolan begrudgingly shot back “because the PR guy told me to” as if he was following someone else’s orders for the first time.
I’ve never seen Dolan this forthright, and it was refreshing to see him finally put his pride aside to officially allow someone who has a vision do what they feel is best for the team. Yes, it’s true that Phil has never been in the role of basketball executive before, but profound minds like Phil Jackson’s only come once a generation. He’s not simply a big name; he is a presence that is palpable enough to transform the entire aurora of a team just by sitting courtside. Starting now, when the Knicks lose games, we can be safeguarded by the fact that Phil will be watching with us. No more will the Knicks toil away like they have this year bereft of accountability and a motivation to improve.
We all know Phil has had great success as a coach, but his almost mystical philosophies on the game of basketball is something that isn’t confined to wins and losses. He’s a visionary that changes the people around him and his nebulous role as Knicks President is something more fitting of him since figures like him can’t be boxed into categories with specific duties like coach or general manager. For now, Steve Mills will serve as GM, whatever that means, but that’s okay because Mills will be getting all his marching orders from Phil and Phil only. Believe it or not, this actually can work since Phil doesn’t want to be plagued with the mundane day-to-day duties of a general manger when he can be at the beach thinking of bigger things than taking meetings with needy agents. Cushy as it may sound, Phil is one of the few people that have earned that kind of luxury, and he’s got 13 rings to prove it.
Of course, like many of you, I’ve been burned before by the Knicks and these “new era” mantras. However, what’s really important is that now is the first time the Knicks will let someone with a vision get a chance to actually try to reach it. These are exciting times to be a fan so if you have a weird feeling in your chest, don’t be so quick to think of it as trepidation, it might actually be something we haven’t felt in awhile: hope.