The New York Knicks have made a lot of head scratching moves over the years. Who could ever forget the Knicks trading arguably the most recognizable and celebrated player to ever wear a Knicks uniform, Patrick Ewing? In 2000, the Knicks traded Ewing to the Seattle Supersonics. That happened to be the summer before the final year of his contract. The move was downright disrespectful, especially when you factor in that the Knicks received superstars Travis Knight, Luc Longley, and Glen Rice in return. Ok, Rice was decent for a while, but the Knicks spent a lot for basically a lot of nothing. This move arguably started the downward spiral that make the Knicks so chaotic today.
Deals involving Stephon Marbury, Steve Francis, Jalen Rose and the incomparable Eddy Curry also come to mind. And what about Larry Johnson, whom because of his monster contract the Knicks may still be in debt to, even though he retired in 2001. The Knicks organization has always been over-eager to make quick fixes, only to see them blow up in their face. Finally, the Knicks may be on the verge of making a move that other teams would dare to make. A move that makes sense. Hiring Phil Jackson to a front office position. However, with all the credibility a name like Phil Jackson can bring, his age, health, and other factors bring a lot of questions with it.
The first possible issue with hiring Jackson is the fact he’s never held a position in the front office. Coaching is a lot different from dealing with the everyday operations of a pro franchise. First and foremost, that word ‘everyday’ is huge. Coaching a team full of millionaires cannot be easy, but at least there are days off during the season. After the season, there is an off-season. For NBA GM’s and anyone involved in player personnel, there is little down time. In fact, it’s a year-round job. Although, it’s not been determined exactly what Jackson’s title will be assuming he’s hired, it’s going to be interesting to see just how much he will be willing and able to give to help resurrect the Knicks fallen franchise.
Jackson, who is 68 years old is not only up in age, but has had his share of health problems. Most notably his back. Jackson’s back problems while coaching the Lakers were well documented. The problems with his back were so severe, that there were clauses written into his contract that freed him from having to travel with the team on certain road trips. Those problems with his back shouldn’t really come into play, in regards to his possible position with the Knicks, but his age may. As the rumors about the possibility of Jackson joining the Knicks started, so did the comparisons. Most notably with fellow coaching legend and current Miami Heat president, Pat Riley.
Riley, after coaching the Knicks, ironically, was hired to be coach and GM of the Heat in 1995. At that time, 51 years of age, Riley had growing pains of his own into his new gig. In 2003, Riley stepped down as coach to concentrate fully on his duties as GM. He was ultimately responsible for drafting Dwyane Wade in the 2003 NBA Draft, and trading for Shaquille O’Neal in 2005 in route to returning as coach and winning his 5th NBA title in 2006. At 51, Riley had a lot more time to grow into his new role. It eventually paid off. Jackson, doesn’t have that luxury.
Then, there are other factors, like the Knicks fan base and media in New York. There is a pressure like no other city to win and win now. That’s not possible due to the financial state of the franchise. Phil Jackson, has always been one of the coolest customers around, so that shouldn’t be a problem, but it can’t possibly help matters. In addition to New York fans and media, dealing with Jim Dolan is another issue in itself. Just how much control is he willing to give up? The amount of control may ultimately be the biggest factor on if Jackson even takes the job. It would be a huge blow to Dolan’s ego if he steps aside to a certain extent and allows someone else to come in and do the job he’s failed to do over the last decade and a half. I seriously doubt Dolan is that team oriented.
No matter the title, the name Phil Jackson, brings instant credibility and could possibly bring respectability back to a Knicks franchise that desperately needs it. However, every team or franchise also needs stability to be successful. Can Phil Jackson help bring that stability to the Knicks front office? Only time will tell. Sit down, put your feet up, grab a Snicker bar and relax, Knicks fans. Fixing the Knicks will take a long time.