TOK Roundtable: Phil Jackson Edition


Every now and then at Turn On The Knicks our staff will debate an issue surrounding the team here in Roundtable Format. Make sure to give everybody a follow on Twitter, and follow the site right here. Let us know if you agree/disagree.

What are your thoughts on Phil Jackson’s (hopefully official soon!) arrival?

Chris Celletti - The consensus on the Zen Master’s potential hiring has been fairly split, which is about as good as you can ask for in Knicks land these days. While there is plenty of excitement and a lot of fans are happy about this, there have been numerous opinions the other way, spanning all walks of life: bloggers, traditional media and everything in between. The common refrain from the detractors seems to be any synthesis of these three things: 1) The Knicks are doing this wrong, throwing money at another big-name savior instead of making under-the-radar, shrewed moves, 2) Phil Jackson has never run a team before, and on top of that, won’t have the requisite work ethic and won’t want to deal with the daily grind, and 3) James Dolan is still going to f*@$ everything up.

Those three are all valid concerns. It’s certainly true that Phil has only ever coached at the NBA level, and running a team from the top down is a different, daunting task. And yes, at any moment James Dolan can freak out and intervene, and whenever he does that good things don’t usually follow. And his mouth-shut-no-matter-what media policy runs in the opposite direction to Phil’s usual candor (this will be interesting to see play out, though I remain skeptical to how important this really is anyway). I disagree mainly with tenet of the first point, though I understand it’s validity as an opinion. Knicks fans have seen the franchise throw bags of money at big names before, whether it be players, coaches or executives and championships have remained far off the the distance, so it stands to reason that they should take a different approach. They should split the money, for instance, and hire a young, new-age executive like Daryl Morey, Sam Presti or Masai Ujiri, build through the draft, hire a young, up-and-coming coach, etc. That’s certainly reasonable, but it’s also valid to recognize who is actually winning the championships.

How did the Miami Heat get where they are? Well, Pat Riley, a big-name, larger than life personality took over as team President, running all the basketball ops. Yes, drafting Dwayne Wade with a high pick was a gigantic step in the right direction, but as with nearly every championship-winning team, one player doesn’t do the deed. Who did Riley pair with Wade to win the Heat’s first title? Shaquille O’Neal, a man who couldn’t fit under any radar on Earth. Then the Heat, with Wade, a title-winning superstar still in tow, were bad. They could have decided to bottom out totally and pick high in the draft for a few years (and I’m not here to say that would have been a bad move). Instead, Riley cleared every penny of cap space off the board and signed the three biggest free agents of the 2010 class, including, oh, I don’t know, THE SINGLE BEST PLAYER IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.

As long as LeBron James is on the Heat, it surely makes trying to recreate what the Heat have much harder, because you can’t get LeBron James (obvious, I know). So it’s understandable to want the Knicks to hold on to their draft choices, bottom out, and choose in the lottery for a few years. But for every Russel Westbrook/Kevin Durant combination, there’s a Dion Waiters/Tristan Thompson combination. Drafting is no guarantor of success, and while neither is hiring Phil Jackson, the idea of staying away from high-profile people is a bit off-base.

It’s silly to sit here and say that Jackson’s going to bring the Knicks a title, and it’s also unfair to kill the Knicks for wanting to hire him. If we know that James Dolan isn’t going to go the bottom-out route, and hand the reins over to someone like Sam Presti while staying out of things, surely the Knicks could do worse than trying out Phil Jackson. (Let me remind you that their current General Manager has zero basketball operations experience.) As with any trade, hiring/firing in sports, we’ll need to wait and see how this plays out. But there are enough positives he brings to the table that I think, at the very least, this is worth a shot.

Kevin Smith - I have one foot through the door, but I’m not sure if I’m going to walk in. One side of me loves the prospects of having an elite basketball mind up in the front office, but the other side of me is terrified of what Jackson will think of the disheveled mess known to some as an organization. It also worries me that Phil has never been in a management position before, and he’ll have to adapt to a new work environment at close to 70 years old. Most importantly, I’m not sure that James Dolan will back off and understand Jackson’s sarcastic, yet so serious side. When it comes down to it, Dolan gets what Dolan wants, and all he wants to do is fill the seats up at Madison Square Garden, no matter what kind of product is putting on the floor.

Still, there’s no way that you can spin this to make me think that hiring Jackson is a bad thing. Considering he has 13 championship rings, there has to be something he can teach to the Knicks about winning.

My much more in-depth analysis of Jackson’s hiring can be read here: Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks: A Match Made in Heaven


Aaron Jacobs - After a week of deliberation and figuring out if Phil Jackson was just using the Knicks for leverage to a position with the Los Angeles Lakers, the deal finally got done. Phil Jackson has 13 championship rings as a player and a coach so having him in the front office will certainly benefit the Knicks as far as basketball related decisions. Certainly we know that changes will be coming once this season is over and we should all look for Jackson to bring in people who know his system, so this should boil down to front office changes and personnel changes as soon as the salary cap situation gets fixed. All of these changes are without a doubt necessary to an organization in disarray. The pessimist in me however see’s nothing but horrible things can come from Jackson being here, especially long term.

Some people might question me, but you have to understand who James Dolan is to really dig deep into why this Phil Jackson move will ultimately be like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Things might go smoothly for the first few years, but after a while the over-controlling, bad contract signing, franchise destroying owner will bear his ugly head instead of letting Phil Jackson make the important decisions. This has happened with every good player or general manager that has dared take on the Knicks organization. Fact is that Phil Jackson and James Dolan are just two dominating personalities that will eventually clash like oil & water. The question is can Jackson repair the mess Dolan has left him to the tune of a possible championship caliber team before the relationship ultimately falters and Jackson leaves on bad terms, which to me at least seems inevitable.

Only time will tell, but it will certainly be entertaining to watch unfold.

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