16 March 2014

Why Phil Jackson is not the answer to fix the Knicks

(Getty Images)
Come Tuesday, the New York Knicks will have a new face of the franchise and it will be only the greatest NBA coach of all time. Phil Jackson, who played for the Knicks from 1967 to 1978 with winning titles in 1970 and 1973, is headed back to the Big Apple to become their new head of operations.

There is no question that the Knicks have their fair share of problems but I am far from convinced that Jackson will be the man that can get them back on the right track.

Now Jackson certainly brings a number of strengths. After all, he is the greatest coach ever as I mentioned and he has always been a master of the mental game and with motivating his players. Players have always wanted to play for him and that will help him be an even greater draw for players to come to New York, which already is a big draw for obvious reasons.

Plus, he will be able to bring in his own coach to be on the same page with, barring something extroadinarily unlikely in Mike Woodson salvaging his job, and it appears that the front runner may be Steve Kerr, the highly thought of TNT NBA analyst, former Suns GM and former Bull under Jackson. I think he would be an excellent hire and the best the team has made in a while, provided it happens.

All of that said, this is a major job as the Knicks have significant salary cap problems, minimal draft picks to work with, and a legitimate question of whether to bring back Carmelo Anthony this offseason. Save for a few years where it seemed that the Knicks being back on track, they did win 54 games a year ago after all, they have floundered back to a 27-40 mark (they have won six in a row and somehow sit a few games back of the playoffs in a comical Eastern Conference).

And now the guy that will be leading the basketball operations will be somebody that has no personnel experience, has been out of basketball for a few years, and is not likely one to be in New York year-round or traveling with the team on the road.

Not to mention that it remains to be seen if Jackson will have the opportunity to remake the front office to his liking. GM Steve Mills, who took over for Glen Grunwald a month before the season and like Jackson is lacking in personnel experience, will still be with the team in the same position. Not to mention the meddlesome presence of owner James Dolan, who as Chris Ballard notes, runs the team with an iron fist. He appeared to change somewhat when Donnie Walsh was running the show and getting the team out of salary cap hell, but Dolan waded back in during the Carmelo Anthony negotiations and Walsh was out shortly thereafter.

Above all else, Dolan did what he has always liked to do, go after big names. And he landed as big of a fish he could get by giving Jackson some $12 million to run the operation. To rejuvenate this franchise, Jackson will have a significant amount of work to do, and may just need every penny to do it.

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