ESPN’s Chris Broussard is reporting that Phil Jackson is leaning towards accepting a position with the New York Knicks that will leave him with “total autonomy” of basketball operations.
— Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) March 10, 2014
Jackson, 68, is a 13-time NBA Champion as a player and head coach. He has been itching to jump into a front office position with an NBA franchise; however, he was only going to accept a position in which he would have total control of basketball operations. This isn’t the first time that it has looked like Jackson was going to accept a job as an NBA executive. How quickly we forget that Jackson was part of the ownership group that was attempting to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle. He was also offered a front office position with the Brooklyn Nets but he chose to decline that offer.
There is little doubt that Jackson has the requisite experience and basketball knowledge to be a fantastic President of Basketball Operations. We’re talking about a man that won two NBA Championships as a member of the New York Knicks in the 1970’s and has won 11 NBA Championships with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers as Head Coach. Jackson has been able to manage egos of players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Scottie Pippen and Shaquille O’Neal just to name a few. He is clearly capable of hiring a competent team of colleagues and recruiting free agents to New York.
However, there are questions about whether or not Jackson has the time, patience, or vision to create a winner out of the New York Knicks, who have a severe lack of talent and almost zero tradable assets beyond Carmelo Anthony, who can leave as a free agent after this season. Also, let’s not forget that we’re talking about the Knicks, who have perhaps one of the five worst owners in American sports right now in James Dolan, the CEO of Madison Square Garden. Dolan has refused to relinquish total authority of the Knicks to anyone, other than Isiah Thomas, and we all know how that ended, though Dolan claims that Thomas is a “basketball genius”. Well, that about clears up how much James Dolan knows about basketball. Moreover, Dolan is a secretive leader who has forced the previous Presidents of Basketball Operations to pull a veil over the day-to-day proceedings of the front office, which has hindered the executives ability to operate within the marketplace. Simply put, James Dolan is a horrendous owner and if he thinks he’s hiring another Isiah Thomas, who will succumb to his every whim, he’s dead wrong.
Let’s not forget who Phil Jackson is. The Zen Master is one of the most outspoken coaches of all-time and has no problem using the “divide and conquer” theory to get what he wants. He’s played the immortal Dr. Jerry Buss before. He’s taken down Jerry West, Mitch Kupchak, Jerry Reinsdorf and countless others in this fashion. Hell, he broke Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan once upon a time. This is a man who’s not afraid to do anything or say anything to get everybody on the same page. Perhaps that’s exactly what James Dolan needs. However, no one has succeeded in changing the culture of the New York Knicks yet and I find it difficult to believe that a 68-year old who will spend most of his time in Montana will be able to change the culture any more than any other executive. However, it is possible that Phil Jackson may be the next Pat Riley. I’m just not 100% sold on the idea, especially with James Dolan in charge.
While Dolan may be making a big mistake by bringing Jackson into the fray, at least he is swinging for the fences and attempting to change the culture of the Knicks. The same thing cannot be said about Jimmy Buss and the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite the fact that Jackson is still close to the Lakers franchise, the team and, more specifically, Jimmy Buss have refused to give Jackson an opportunity within the franchise. We haven’t even mentioned that Jeanie Buss, Jackson’s longtime girlfriend, is the President of Business Operations and co-owner of the team. There is absolutely no reason in the world that Phil Jackson shouldn’t have Jimmy Buss’ spot in the pecking order in terms of basketball decision making. I understand it’s a matter of corporate politics and Buss has a responsibility as the owner of the franchise to be involved with basketball decisions; however, a team of Jackson and Kupchak is a heck of a lot stronger than the current Buss-Kupchak team.
The Lakers still have a chance to remedy this situation and offer Jackson and comparable position within the franchise, but they won’t because these are the Dr. Buss-less Lakers. We’ve all come to expect the worst from this regime and frankly they’ve given us the right to question their every move. The fact that likes of Magic Johnson, Phil Jackson and Jerry West are working for other franchise and aren’t part of the brain trust of the Los Angeles Lakers is absolutely baffling and inexcusable. Perhaps Jackson is using the Knicks as leverage to get what he really desires in Los Angeles, but for right now it certainly looks like another Laker great is going to take his talents elsewhere.