Can Phil Jackson Save the Knicks?

Will the Zen Master thrive where many have failed? Courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.

This past week, Phil Jackson became the new president of basketball operations for the New York Knickerbockers. This agreement called for approximately a $12 million annual salary; however, Jackson may not live in New York City full-time as he assumes this role. This is a hefty price for someone who might not be working in the city full-time, has no experience in basketball operations, and has been away from basketball since 2011. Despite this, the Knicks will bring back Jackson, a fan favorite who helped lead the Knicks to two championships in the 1970s. His return comes as bright spot in one of the most disappointing seasons in recent Knicks history. The “Zen Master” will attempt to guide a franchise that hasn’t won a championship since he played for them to another championship.

Jackson has won 11 championships as a coach and two more as a player (both as a member of the Knicks), but has no experience in scouting, capology (the “science” of understanding the NBA’s salary cap), or any other aspect of running a team from an executive level. One has to wonder how he can succeed, especially under the constant scrutiny of meddling owner James Dolan. The dynamics of that relationship in particular will be interesting to watch. Jackson is known for his openness with media and public; he wrote a book that harshly criticized former players and accentuated his own personal triumphs. Dolan, on the other hand, is notorious for his silence and is rumored to have placed a gag order on all of his employees. Furthermore, Dolan has constantly meddled in basketball management and forced the management team to make moves that they didn’t want to, such as the Carmelo Anthony trade. Dolan forced then-general manager, Donnie Walsh, into giving up more than he was comfortable with to acquire Anthony. Eventually, Walsh grew tired of Dolan’s antics and left the organization to join the Indiana Pacers. It’s only a matter of time before Jackson and Dolan clash, and knowing Jackson’s propensity to use the media to serve his own purposes, it’s likely to get ugly. There is some hope that Dolan has finally learned from his mistakes, as he has held multiple interviews since the Jackson hiring announcement. He even admitted that basketball was not his expertise, so there is hope for Knicks fans.

Despite all of the potential negatives, Jackson brings immediate credibility to a franchise that has little to none at the moment. He provides a big name to pitch to free agents like LeBron James, and if he somehow manages to attract to another superstar to pair with Anthony, his tenure might already be deemed a success. Jackson received a standing ovation during the Knicks home game against the Pacers, which showed that this move could potentially bring new life to a team making a playoff push. Will Jackson make the Knicks a title contender? Maybe, but at this point, Knicks fans have been given new hope for a previously forsaken season, and they’ll take that….for now.

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