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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Assessing the Potential Phil Jackson Hire

We’ve all been driving down the road at one point or another and stumbled upon a disastrous car wreck and slowed down to quickly investigate the scene and satisfy our metaphorical gators. Phil Jackson is doing the same thing, but rather than merely driving past the scene, he’s purportedly leaning towards getting involved in the disaster that is the New York Knicks.

Back when a group of Seattle-based investors, led by billionaire Chris Hansen, were trying to bring the Sacramento Kings to Seattle, Hansen reportedly had a deal with Jackson that he could have any job he wanted within the organization. Obviously things fell through. Seattle didn’t get the team, and the Kings remained in Sacramento.

Since that time, Jackson hasn’t been in any serious discussions to join another NBA front office. Enter the New Yorks and James Dolan. Things are bad in New York and Dolan is searching for answers. (I apologize if that made you involuntarily twitch). The second in command after Dolan is the guy who recommended Isaiah Thomas, Steve Mills, who got the job after Glen Grunwald was abruptly fired before the start of this season.

Beneath Mills is Allan Houston, who is reportedly being groomed to become the Knicks General Manager at some point in the not too distant future. Then of course, you have CAA’s influence within the front office and everything that comes with that. (Although I’m not entirely sure what it all comes with). In short, there are a lot of Yes men, in a front office that needs a No man.

Jackson doesn’t have any official front office experience, so it’s hard to really predict what kind of GM he’d be for the Knicks. Jackson is 68-years-old, and has been out of the league for three years now. If Phil ends up taking the job, he would be roughly the same age former Knicks General Manager Donnie Walsh was when he took the gig. Both had prior health concerns, and we all know how Walsh’s tenure in New York ended. With that said, if Phil agrees to run this franchise he’s probably not going to run it with the future of the franchise in mind. That may not be what the Knicks necessarily need in their next general manager.

Perhaps Phil turns out to be the executive Pat Riley has been in Miami and he uses his past success as a coach to get Melo another superstar or two to play alongside him this summer or next. The Knicks front office just tried that strategy with Walsh and Grunwald, and look where they are now. It’s great if it works, but if it doesn’t you have to go through this whole ordeal once again in a couple of years where Phil would realistically not be apart of the process anymore.

Phil won two championships as a player and eleven as a head coach, which in theory should be quite enticing to big name free agents. That’s not the worst strategy, but is it the best route for the Knicks to take in 2014? Hiring Phil means the front office is going to continue to focus on making the Knicks a contender in the near future. The Knicks have an asset problem and to put together a contender in the near future means the team will likely have to surrender more future assets in what seems like a never ending cycle in Gotham.

Obviously it’d be much more fun to watch a contending Knicks team with a superstar or two playing alongside Melo. It would. But would adding Love and/or Rondo really propel the Knicks past the Heat or Pacers? Surrounding Melo with other stars sounds nice on the surface, but when you dig deeper the strategy of clearing cap space for big name stars may not be the best strategy.

There is also the option Phil takes the gig and hires a younger, analytical mind to eventually take the reigns once he steps down a few years down the line. Somebody like Troy Weaver of Oklahoma City, who has a relationship with Melo, should be targeted to work under Phil so the franchise doesn’t have to keep looking for general managers every couple of years. But maybe that’s what happens when Jimmy Dolan owns your franchise.

Perhaps the most underrated aspect of the potential Jackson hire is the hope that the powers that be recognize that before making any significant roster or head coaching decisions, they need to start at the top. The organization needs a new leader in the front office before they decide what to do with Mike Woodson and the Knicks roster. Sure, Woodson is probably gone at the end of the season anyway, but hiring a new front office guy before making franchise-altering decisions like hiring a new head coach and re-signing a superstar is vital in creating an environment built to last.

Adding Phil Jackson sounds like a slam dunk on paper, but whenever you’re hiring anyone with no experience in the job they’re applying for — that’s a big risk. It’s not that simple, sure, but Knicks’ fans shouldn’t be doing back flips in excitement if Phil does accept the job because it’s an unknown. I’m not saying it won’t end up being a good or bad move for the franchise, yet, because it’s a whole new challenge for Phil that may take a lot of time getting used to. Phil could be exactly what the Knicks need, but only time will tell. Let it.

19 comments on “Assessing the Potential Phil Jackson Hire

  1. TheRant

    The fastest way to a Knicks championship is to find James Dolan and to beat him with a tire iron.

    Unfortunately, he seems to have security. Fortunately, they might help.

  2. TheRant

    Oh, yeah, Phil Jackson. Doesn’t the whole “Phil” question depend on his relationship with “Guitar Jimmy”?

  3. d-mar

    I don’t normally take shots at posters, but I’m an English major and this kind of stuff drives me nuts – didn’t you mean “assessing” not “accessing” the Phil Jackson hire?

  4. Douglas

    Oh, yeah, Phil Jackson. Doesn’t the whole “Phil” question depend on his relationship with “Guitar Jimmy”?

    cue Edna Krabappel-style “HA!”

  5. KnickfaninNJ

    Hiring Phil means the front office is going to continue to focus on making the Knicks a contender in the near future. The Knicks have an asset problem and to put together a contender in the near future means the team will likely have to surrender more future assets in what seems like a never ending cycle in Gotham.

    This isn’t necessarily true. The front office hired Walsh and didn’t focus on making a contender instantly. They could make the same decision now. And if Dolan’s mandate is now to make a contender instantly, Steve Mills or any hire they made would have that mandate. I don’t see how speculation on what Dolan wants reflects on whether hiring Jackson is a good decision or not. Personally, I think there could be many many worse hires than this. Actually, the fact that Jackson may be willing to take the job suggests that he thinks things are not as dismal for the Knicks as I think they are. Overall, that’s very good news.

  6. thenamestsam

    I’ll start by saying that I, personally, am still working under the assumption that this isn’t going to happen. The reason I think that is not just because good things so rarely happen to the Knicks, but specifically because Dolan and Jax seem like such an awkward mix. It seems to me that Dolan has always been the type who wants to have guys around him that make him feel like one of the cool kids. Jax seems like the kind of guy who has a lot of disdain for the spoiled, rich moron, not the type who’s going to be willing to pretend to like him as long as he keep signing the checks. Basically what I’m saying is that I’m like 99% sure that if Dolan mentions the Eagles in front of Jackson, Phil won’t hesitate to tell him how bad the Eagles suck. That isn’t Dolan’s type.

    That said, from a purely hypothetical point of view, I do think it would be an excellent view. None of the potential sticking points Chase (and others) raise are wrong, it’s just that I think they tend to look at the alternative with pretty rose-colored glasses. For example, Chase writes “Hiring Phil means the front office is going to continue to focus on making the Knicks a contender in the near future” as though not hiring Phil means the front office might not do that. Personally I don’t see much chance of that. We’re going to be in “win now” mode no matter how low our chances of winning now and no matter how misguided a choice that is. Just look at this year’s trade deadline. The choice isn’t between Phil and a front office that takes a patient long-term stance. The choice is between trying to win now with Phil or without Phil. So give me Phil.

  7. mj1

    When the Nets hired Jason Kidd we were all in here hating on his experience, or lack thereof. How did that turn out? In terms of inexperience, I think I like Jax’s chances better than Kidd’s.

  8. BKQuick

    I have to think that anything Jax can lend to the FO of the Knicks has to be an improvement over the existing cast of yes men. Additionally, his championships have to have at least as much weight with free agents as Riley’s. He should be pretty convincing at indicating that the Knicks are serious about cultivating a winning culture.

  9. johnno

    Am I the only one who thinks that the mere fact that Dolan is even attempting to hire someone whom most people view as a serious basketball guy (who will not be a total yes-man) is a major step in the right direction? If he’s been contemplating this move for awhile, that might explain why he hasn’t fired the coach yet since any new head of basketball operations would want to pick the coach. I’m confused — first, Dolan vetoes further mortgaging of the future in a Lowry trade, then he doesn’t force any panic trades at the deadline, and now he’s trying to hire a real basketball guy to run things. This semi-prolonged display of rational behavior has my head spinning…

  10. Kahnzy

    Hiring Phil Jackson can’t make this team any worse, and hey it’s not like it’s our money. If Dolan wants to hand over piles of cash in the hopes that arguably the greatest coach of his generation (I’m a big Pop fan, though I wasn’t when he first took over the job) can similarly succeed in an executive role, I’m all for it; especially when you look at the alternatives.

    Further, this whole argument of him not having experience is a bit, I think, off. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m quite sure that coaching and executiving are very different jobs (not having done either, I’m going on blind faith here), but I’m also reasonably certain that there are significant similarities that might make one good at both if they are any good at one.

    I’ve read some reports/blogs suggesting that his lack of experience means he can end up anywhere on the successful (Pat Riley) side or the very unsuccessful (you know who I’m talking about) side. The difference I see here is that one of them (Riley) was a mental guy in a mental position transitioned to a mental position. In other words, he went from a job that required high basketball IQ (or whatever the analytic kids are calling it these days) to another job that also required him being not stupid. That other guy went from being a player (which does not require intellect, though it certainly helps) who was really good to an executive, which in no way suited his skill-set or abilities.

    I know some on this board are crying out for some young, analytically minded basketball mind be given a shot (someone in the mold of Sam Presti, for example), but get real. Others have made this argument before, but for as long as James Dolan is calling the shots for our beloved New York Knicks then it wouldn’t matter if we had a guy who could turn out to be the greatest GM in the history of ever if he didn’t have the clout, reputation, and straight up balls to stand up to Dolan when Dolan’s being a complete Dolan.

  11. Eternal OptiKnist

    @11 Am I the only one who thinks that the mere fact that Dolan is even attempting to hire someone whom most people view as a serious basketball guy (who will not be a total yes-man) is a major step in the right direction?

    Despite all the talking heads poo-poo-ing this move, i think i might agree with you. The reason i’m thinking so is becuase Dolan sees what’s going on in Brooklyn and perhaps realizes the way he’s gone about things have not worked and wants to win this battle. As much as people we’re afraid of Brooklyn stealing Knick “thunder” (or mild vibrations), i’ve always thought its the best thing that could happen to us…something to keep us accountable. While his motivation is beating Brooklyn (while it should be winning a chip) which it really shouldn’t be, the outcome should be positive. I almost think the reason Woody is still here is because of what he said in the post article about being more patient than Prokerov.

  12. Eternal OptiKnist

    Now, something i’ve heard mentioned is that Phil would want to run his system. I’d like to think he knows the city and is smart enough to know more than just the triangle….that he’d know Knick basketball would be DEEE-FENSE and bring in JVG. But one could argue that he’d have the greatest potential of success by installing his system, so lets assume that happens (buh bye JVG…sad face).

    I’m embarrassed to say, i know nothing of the triangle offense. Is there an expert here that can elaborate and/or point us to some good reference material? Melo seems similar to Kobe on offense; is he well-suited for the triangle? Are there other coaches that use this other than Brian Shaw (under a different moniker perhaps?)

  13. ephus

    When I first heard these rumors, my paranoid side feared that Phil Jackson and Todd Musberger were leveraging the Knicks to try to get the front office position that he wants in LA.

    Now, Stephen A. Smith is reporting that the rumor in LA is that Jimmy Buss is under pressure to give in to Phil/Jeannie, but he is not budging so far.

    As much as I would love to have Phil Jackson as GM (because he would keep Dolan’s hands off of the steering wheel), I am highly skeptical that he is coming. I see a last minute deal between Phil/Jeannie and the Lakers that will give Phil control over basketball operations, Jeannie control over business operations, with both reporting in to Jim Buss. If Brian Shaw gets fired in Denver, he would quickly be slotted to replace Mike D’Antoni.

  14. ephus

    I’m embarrassed to say, i know nothing of the triangle offense. Is there an expert here that can elaborate and/or point us to some good reference material? Melo seems similar to Kobe on offense; is he well-suited for the triangle? Are there other coaches that use this other than Brian Shaw (under a different moniker perhaps?)

    The link below gives a good primer on the Triangle offense:

    http://www.breakthroughbasketball.com/offense/triangle-offense2.html

    When run purely, the Triangle is a pure ball motion offense that does not incorporate dribbling in place. The ball and the offensive players are supposed to be in constant motion, mostly by passes. There are some opportunities for PnR, No single player is supposed to be ball-dominant.

    Phil Jackson ran a modified Triangle offense with Kobe. Kobe had the freedom to create an isolation whenever he felt he had an advantageous match-up.

    The big upside to the Triangle offense is that it really de-emphasizes the PG.
    The flipside is that it requires all five players to be decent ball handlers. Omer Asik or Andris Biedrins might have 8 turnovers a game on a Triangle team.

    The Triangle runs contrary to current thinking because it creates a lot of open mid-range shots. It is not designed to create 3s.

  15. Eternal OptiKnist

    Thanks for posting! I i have to read it in detail tonight, but seems to be pretty complex and per the intro requires some long-term roster stability and patience. Those don’t sound like Knicks tenets!

  16. swiftandabundant

    @16…I’ve been thinking about if we actually did start using the Triangle offense. Outside of whether we’d have the personnel to do it or not, would doing something that goes against current NBA thinking regarding offense be a benefit or a hinderance? See, cause the way I see it, coaches and teams usually follows what works. Dantoni came along and did something different with the offense and for awhile The Suns had a big advantage over everyone else cause it was completely new and coaches hadn’t planned for it. Now a lot of teams do a version of what Dantoni and Nash were running on offense, albeit not as well or modified. We had some success with it last year but it also seems easy to defend if a team can’t hit their 3s.

    So if no one is doing the triangle because mid range shots are not cool and efficient, couldn’t that be a big advantage for us if we implemented the Triangle and were running it successfully?

    Curious to hear what people think.

  17. daJudge

    I appreciated the perspective of the post. I have never been a Jackson fan, except when he was Action Jackson on the Knicks. I loved him then. Nevertheless, perhaps Dolan needs a dude with Jackson’s street cred in the same way Melo would benefit from a point guard with serious street cred. I don’t mean to criticize Melo ( I respect him a great deal) and I hope I am being clear. Dolan needs to sit back and listen to experts and sometimes Melo needs to follow the flow from an expert point guard. It is not in the same proportion, but it is a similar concept. I am in favor of the Jackson hire.

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