At Hardwood Paroxysm: Zen and the Art of Knickerbocker Maintenance

Morning, gang.  I’m excited to report that I posted my first piece for Hardwood Paroxysm today.  It deals, as you might expect, with the seemingly impending Phil Jackson hire, why it probably won’t work, and why it still might work.

Here’s some of it:

Where some billionaires buy art or cars or pricey new gadgets, Dolan buys Big Names. They are his vanity pieces. Their success and creativity qualifies them as things worthy of his possession, even his desire, but like any good vanity piece, they…well, it’s right there in the name. When that same success and creativity stop serving his vanity, when they instead challenge his vision of himself and his own place in the NBA pecking order, when they suggest a change in the obviously flawed direction in which Dolan and his coterie of yes-men and doormats have taken the Knicks, they cease to serve their purpose. Once that happens, they’re just high-paid, highly-visible reminders that lots of really smart people don’t think James Dolan is particularly capable of owning a winning NBA franchise. And then it’s over, just as it would be over if you hung a painting on your wall and all of a sudden it started talking to you when you had company over, telling you to get up off the couch and do a load of laundry and for the love of God call your parents every now and then.

Yes, this will probably fail. And yes, it’s still the right move.

Here’s the rest of it.

Happy reading and may your days be full of sunshine, smiles, and Buddhist executives.


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.