An Early To-Do List for Phil Jackson

Since no one has said anything since the presser, I’ll take the first crack at the Jackson hire. I’m sitting at Panera allegedly working on a manuscript revision, but I need something to get my writing mojo going.

I suppose I should re-introduce myself. I go way back at but haven’t posted in quite some time. Life thangs and such. I live in Columbia, South Carolina and work at (the first) USC. I grew up in East Orange rooting for the Mets of Mookie, Doc, and Straw, and the Nets of Otis (Birdsong) and Buck (Williams). When the Hoya Destroya, donned the orange and blue I became a Knicks fan. Then I moved to St. Louis during my first year of high school (during the ‘Mets are Pond Scum‘ era). I took chemistry with a chubby kid named Reggie Starks who would not shut up about his cousin, John. He swore that guy was the best thing since pockets. I finally saw cousin John play at Oklahoma State while I was an undergrad at Mizzou. He ultimately became my all-time favorite Knick.

So, like many of you I’ve been to it and through with this team. So I will keep my optimism about Phil Jackson guarded for now, thank you very much. At this point, I’m just looking for a couple things from him. Can he articulate a coherent, compelling vision? And, can he assemble a talented management team that works well together?

Only time will answer those questions fully. Meanwhile, Phil has a list of chores that require his more or less immediate attention.

Item #1: Requisition New Deadbolts For Dolan’s Office That Lock From The OUTSIDE

“Willingly and gratefully” notwithstanding, any time-hardened Knicks fan knows the deal with J.D. and his allegedly straight shot. The big little man just can’t help himself when an opportunity to “big time” presents itself. You just know that sliver of kryptonite will show up again in this movie, at the worst possible moment. Nevertheless, $12 million can buy a lot of lead lining. I’d still feel safer if someone locked Dolan in his office and put him on rations, at least through this first off-season.

Item #2: Build Out The Leadership Team

One thing that remains unclear is Steve Mills’ role going forward. It is difficult to believe that he is a trusted adviser to Jackson, given that he never spoke at the presser. Even if he keeps the GM tag, I wonder if his working role will be anything more than a buffer separating Dolan from Jackson . (In that sense, I’m not itching to see him go.) Regardless, I cannot imagine that Jackson and Mills will constitute the entire leadership team. This, to me is Jackson’s most significant early challenge. Although I think some of the “no experience” criticisms have been way overdone, Jackson’s only track record of putting together a leadership team is an unimpressive string of failed assistant coaches.

Item #3: Figure Out WWCAD

I am certain that Carmelo’s fate has been and will continue to be discussed and discussed some more. A friend opined a couple weeks ago that “Phil’s primary task is to get Carmelo back.” I feel less certain of that. In a broader sense, his primary task is to articulate a vision that entices Carmelo to want to stay in New York (at sub-max prices) for a rebuild into his late prime. I’m sort of agnostic about whether that is good for New York or Anthony.

Either way, Phil will need to quickly have a plan (or at least a sketch) that is clear about how he wants to build around Anthony and/or how Anthony must change to fill a different role. I would not expect Anthony to be that comfortable with the latter unless he was going to a James/Wade/Bosh situation, but you never know. Again, either way the Knicks need to know whether they are putting on the full-court press or politely stepping aside so Anthony can “explore his options”.

Item #4: Figure Out Which Kids Fit and Develop Them

For all the talk of how Anthony fits Phil (or doesn’t), I’m actually more intrigued about how he ultimately sees some of the young guys (especially Shump, Hardaway, Jr., Murry, and Tyler). My sincere hope is that Jackson ends the organization-wide disdain for drafting and developing talent that has plagued MSG since pretty much forever.

Item #5: Woody

As much vitriol as Woody induces in me, his fate is way down the list of priorities. Coaches come and go. Organizational philosophy can act to blunt a coaches’ worst excesses, in effect protecting them from themselves. (I thought Joe Dumars was particularly good at that during the Larry Brown era, for example.) I’m no fan, but whether Woody starts next season on the bench will likely have little to do with the team’s success IF it has a clear direction in terms of playing style and player development.

Seems like enough for now.


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Part-time blogger on the Knicks at and Seahawks at In my free time I hang out at the University of South Carolina and occasionally fill thirsty young minds with knowledge about various and sundry things related to consumer behavior and marketing.

3 thoughts to “An Early To-Do List for Phil Jackson”

  1. I sense and hope he brings a vision that incorporates both short and long range planning, rather than just throwing all the chips in on the next available “star” and then rebooting (Marbury, Curry, Curry/Randolph, LeBron, Amare, Melo, Chris Paul and the wedding toast … LeBron again). It is nice to be able to listen to someone from the team who can talk basketball intelligently after years of Woody and Isaiah’s pablum. Oh and no agendas unrelated to putting a winning team and the best players on the team and court, tes that means you CAA. I am assuming he was not forced to fire his agent and join CAA ala Woodson.

  2. How different would the landscape look if Durant had an opt-out clause in his contract for summer of 2015? Wouldn’t the Knicks then be a favorite to land both LBJ and KD? LBJ needs more rings and to maintain his efficiency if he wants to be in the MJ discussion as greatest of all-time. Does not being paired with Durant along with clear cap provide his best opportunity? As for KD, he’ll probably still be looking for his first chip. They’d be playing on the biggest stage (Kobe’s contract prevents Lakers from making move) and know NYC’s hungry for a chip. You know Phil is thinking of ways to make that happen if Melo bolts to Houston or Chicago.

  3. This is the kind of conversation that all Knick fans should be having. Haven’t we agreed many years ago that Dolan was the Knicks biggest impediment to contending for a title? Well, with fingers crossed, and hopes definetly high. I’m going to take JDolan words”Gratefully and Willingly” and begin to believe the Knicks basketball people will be running the team. Phil Jackson needs to install a culture of separation between Knicks basketball operations and the rest of the Dolan empire. He needs to show Dolan the benefit of letting people do their jobs. He needs to create a solid structure that will survive when he is gone. That is the MISSION IMHO.
    Of course the team that Phil puts on the floor in 2016 must be successful and entertaining. But despite the hysterics at ESPN they don’t have to win a title. New York gets a bad rap considering the patience of thier fanbase. We will gladly accept stability and vision from this Knick organization.God knows we earned it! Let’s get that in place then we can compete for rings

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