Passing Judgment: Phil Jackson Returns to the Knicks

Phil Jackson

James Dolan, you stay out of my way.

Finally, the Knicks can be taken seriously again.  OK maybe it won’t happen that quickly, but the presence of Phil Jackson in the Knicks’ front office should hopefully keep owner James Dolan at bay – for now.

Jackson will be introduced as the newest president of the Knicks at a press conference scheduled for Tuesday, March 18, 2014.  His deal is reportedly for five years at $12,000,000 per year.  This is hefty price to pay for a legendary coach with no executive experience.  But if anyone can turn the Knicks’ franchise around, it is the Zen Master himself.

The initial response from within the Knicks has been overwhelmingly positive.  Carmelo Anthony appears excited by the news as he classified it as a “power move” to bring in the Hall of Fame coach.  It will be very interesting to see how Jackson deals with Anthony who can opt out of his contract and become a free agent at the end of the season.  His decision to stay with the Knicks could hinge on the sales job Jackson does on rebuilding the franchise.

Tyson Chandler also thinks that having Jackson on board is a great selling point to lure potential free agents.  I happen to agree with that sentiment.  For almost the past 15 years, the Knicks have appeared completely dysfunctional as an organization from top to bottom.  From terrible business and personnel decisions to horrific performances on the court, the glamor of playing at Madison Square Garden could not overcome the toxins that inhabited the building.  Now with Phil Jackson on board, there is a chance that Mr. Dolan will finally step aside and let people who know what they are doing actually do what they need to do.

The cynic in me also thinks back to just a few years ago when Donnie Walsh was brought in and given carte blanche autonomy to fix things.  He targeted the summer of 2010 as the launching pad for the Knicks’ renaissance, and sure enough he was successful at clearing bad contracts and cap space right on time.  However, when Walsh opposed the Carmelo Anthony trade, he was overridden by Mr. Dolan who wanted his superstar at any cost.  Walsh separated the forest from the trees and realized trading away half of his team for one player was not the way to go.  In the end, Mr. Dolan got his man and Donnie Walsh is now back in Indiana doing what he should have been doing in New York.

The question is whether Mr. Dolan can possibly learn from the past so he doesn’t make the same mistake again.  Phil Jackson is a brilliant basketball man.  Instead of motivating players on the court, he will be responsible for evaluating players and building the team.  He needs to have a vision of where he sees the Knicks going, and then he needs to have the autonomy to execute that vision.  If he is handcuffed in any way, then there is no point to him even being here in the first place.

After enduring the Scott Layden era, the Isaiah Thomas fiasco, the Stephon Marbury debacle, the Larry Brown horror show, and countless other disasters, I am more than happy to give this a chance to make it work.  Phil Jackson is a basketball legend who also happens to own two rings with the Knicks from his playing career.  If anyone can turn this organization around, it is the man who also possesses a record 11 NBA titles as a coach.  Now let’s see if he can win one from the front office.

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