VIDEO: The Game Time crew talks Phil Jackson to the Knicks
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — All that’s left now is for Phil Jackson to send out the public smoke signal that he’s back, after all of these years, in the fold in New York.
Jackson and the Knicks, according to multiple sources, are working through the sticky points of a deal that would bring him back to the league in a front-office capacity, and not as coach of the Knicks (a job, mind you, that is currently occupied by Mike Woodson).
The latest report says that Jackson and the Knicks are expected to come to an agreement by week’s end, as ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard reports Tuesday morning.
Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks are expected to finalize a deal that will give the legendary coach control of the club’s front office by the end of this week, according to a league source.
“Everything is pretty much done,” the source said. “There are just some little things here and there that need to be worked out, but the Knicks are very confident that this is essentially done.”
An official announcement may not come until next week, the source said.
Make no mistake, though: it’ll take all of the legendary coach’s Zen powers to help fix what ails the Knicks. In short, they are a mess right now. A lame-duck coach. A superstar (Carmelo Anthony) basically being forced to consider his free-agent options elsewhere this summer. And a roster bogged down with so many bad assets that legendary front office maven Donnie Walsh (the man who once tried fixing this mess) couldn’t fix it all.
Most of us have no idea how Jackson will fare in a job he’s never actually done before. But when you’ve accumulated the sort of championship hardware he has over the years — he played on the Knicks’ 1970 and ’73 title teams and won 11 more titles as a coach with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers) — the benefit of the doubt is included in the compensation package.
If anyone alive who has had a hand in the NBA game can clean up the mess that is the Knicks, it has to be Jackson. Be it good fortune or shrewd calculation, or a healthy dose of both and plenty of blind luck, Jackson always seems to find himself in the middle of championship-level success. Why wouldn’t the Knicks want to find themselves affiliated with the same things?
Jackson was supposed to be the savior in Los Angeles, where Kobe Bryant and the Lakers could use some divine intervention these days. But Jim Buss had other plans, ones that didn’t include retaining the services of his sister Jeanie‘s boyfriend in any capacity. (Ask the Lakers how that worked out.)
Now he’ll get the chance to see if his magic works from a different angle, as the man pulling the strings from on high as opposed to doing it with direct contact with the players. I defy anyone to challenge Jackson’s coaching credentials.
For all the grief he gets for having won with the likes of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in Chicago and Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant in L.A., among others, it should be noted that the only member of those Hall of Famers he coached that has won a title without him is Shaq. And remember, Shaq did so alongside Dwyane Wade and perhaps the only other coach (not named Gregg Popovich) of his generation to approach Jackson’s level, Heat boss and former coach of the Showtime Lakers, Pat Riley.
Jackson doesn’t have to sully his reputation by trying to salvage a Knicks team that is clearly beyond repair. But he could send his mythical aura into a new stratosphere if he were somehow able to clear the debris from the wreckage that is these Knicks and bring a championship flair back to Madison Square Garden.
That’s why Knicks owner James Dolan had no choice but to seek out the services of the one man whose name is synonymous with success, the one man whose mere mention sends fans into flights of fancy about championship parades … even when their haven’t been any such plans in the works for decades.
Anyone worried about this not working out for the Knicks in the long run clearly hasn’t paid attention to the tire fire that goes on in Manhattan on the regular. Everyone can worry about the minutiae later. Right now, it’s simply about convincing Jackson to share some of that good vibrations that have followed him throughout his career. If it ends horribly, as predicted here (and almost everything and everyone Dolan and the Knicks come in contact does), so what?
Jackson will still walk away unscathed. He’ll keep his spot on the Mount Rushmore of coaches in the history of organized sports and will still be a living legend in every corner of the basketball world.
Change isn’t always a good thing. But in this instance, it’s the only thing that can save the Knicks.
And the agent of that change, barring any last-minute surprises, appears to be none other than Phil Jackson, whose basketball life and career could come full circle with his reviving the franchise he helped win two titles a lifetime ago.