Phil Jackson is considered one of the greatest coaches of all-time. The Zen Master has coached both the Bulls and Lakers organizations to 11 titles overall while using a rarely used offense called The Triangle. And it is because of his stellar coaching career that many wish he join their favorite teams. Over the years, many teams have made a run at Jackson only to fail. But recently, it has been rumored that Phil may again be back in the NBA. As reported by numerous media outlets, New York Knicks GM Steve Mills met with Jackson about joining their organization. Although Jackson’s potential role in the organization will be a front office position, many seem to think his influence will be the thing to turn the Knicks around. It is also expected that if Jackson is hired, he would have so much power that he would not have to answer to owner James Dolan. Although it sounds like a good thing, there may be some issues with Jackson coming to the Knicks.
The first issue is the salary cap the Knicks and Jackson would have available. Looking at their roster, they have Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani all signed to high-priced contracts. Those three alone are tying up $49 million of the Knicks cap space next season. Add the additional $13 million the Knicks have committed to players on their roster and the Knicks have no cap flexibility to even improve their roster this offseason. The only asset they had been trying to trade all season long, guard Iman Shumpert, has done little to bolster his value this season. In fact, his points per game totals have declined every year he has been in the NBA. Include in the Knicks predicaments the lack of a first-round pick this upcoming draft (thanks to the trade for Carmelo Anthony a few years back) and the Knicks are in serious trouble. At the worst, they could be looking at a Carmelo-less Knicks team that could be really offensive to watch. Now that would really hurt Knicks fans watching that team. Jackson would be handcuffed immediately in this situation.
Another issue is Jackson has never been a front office person. He has coached many a team to titles, but he has never picked the players to add to a team nor hired a coaching to coach a team (the Knicks are expected to be looking for a new head coach this offseason). Adding someone with winning pedigree is a good thing for your organization, but when you add Jackson to the current Knicks situation, there is no guarantee that he will be able to figure it out due to his inexperience in that role. If Jackson is smart, he will look to former Celtics star and current Pacers front office guy Larry Bird as a guide. Bird, in both his front office and head coaching jobs, had little to no experience. But his greatest move was recognizing that and hiring people around him that were well-versed in coaching and front office work respectively. And those smart decisions have made for a successful career in the Pacers organization. But for every Larry Bird, there is also an Isaiah Thomas. The former Detroit Pistons star had an eye for talent, but he could never make it work as a coach or a GM. His Raptors teams never were successful despite the talent he brought there (Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter) and his Knicks teams were just a collection of bad contracts (Steve Francis, Stephon Marbury and many others). Thomas was eventually jettisoned by the Knicks, even though he still hovers around the organization and even was involved in trying to bring LeBron to New York four years ago. Jackson is a good basketball mind, but the jury is out on what he can do in the front office.
In the end, the Knicks will go as far as Dolan stays away no matter if Jackson comes to New York or not. The meddlesome owner did not listen to then-GM Donnie Walsh when he traded a ton of talent and picks for the services of a player that was going to be a free agent that offseason (Carmelo Anthony) and expressed interest in coming to New York. If Dolan had listened at that point and time, maybe he would have had a better situation and Walsh would still be in New York instead of back in Indiana making a contender. Dolan has to be true to his word if he hires Jackson and allow him to do his job. But the track record of Dolan tells us he will again stick his nose in basketball business he has no idea about at all. And because of that, Jackson could have a very difficult job turning the Knicks around. Realistically, all Knicks fans should take a look at 2015 for the potential turn of the franchise if Jackson joins the franchise or not. Phil, for all his greatness, has to weigh his options here very carefully. As a player, Phil was an essential piece for the Knicks organization and he could potentially bring the Knicks back, but the Midas touch may take longer than possible if he signs up for this daunting task.
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