Leave it up to Phil Jackson to conquer the three biggest cities in the United States: 6 titles with Chicago, 5 with the Lakers and now hoping to bring a title to the New York Knicks who haven’t won in over two decades. As Jackson stood at the podium and spoke so eloquently about his ambitions to build a team that is capable of bringing New York a championship, it was clear from that Phil Jackson has been wanting a position like this for sometime. His contentious relationship with his fiancée’s family, the Buss family (who own the Lakers) has prevented him from staying with Lakers organization and being part of the front office, forcing him to look at other NBA teams. All is fair in Love and Basketball, right? So Phil has been searching (something he advocates for players to do: to search and find their role within a team) searching for the right fit, searching for the right opportunity, searching for an organization that will allow him the autonomy to build a team and have control of personnel decisions.
When I first heard about this story I approached it with skepticism. Before going further let me say I’m a Phil Jackson fan: I believe he is a basketball icon, an incredibly intelligent man with sound judgement. Which is why the decision to join the Knicks baffled me. Owner of the Knicks, James Dolan, hasn’t been known to a person that exercises sound judgement. Some of his most infamous decisions are bringing Isiah Thomas on as President of Basketball operations and signing a then aging Allen Houston to a $100 million contract. Is it really plausible to think that someone who throws around money so carelessly and who has demonstrated that he’s going to do what he wants do and not answer to anybody really all of sudden going to give up to control to the Zen master, Phil Jackson. Why would Phil Jackson put himself in such a chaotic situation?
Granted Phil made Jordan and Kobe championship teaching them and coaching them to go to the next level mentally so they can elevate their game physically. Phil has been used to having subordinates and being in position to authority, but in this case we’re not talking about players we’re talking about management! Phil’s in a more corporate political setting now, where egos are too big to be manipulated and taught. Although Dolan said that he is willing to ready to give full control to Phil his history has proven otherwise. I would even argue that during the press Phil seemed to remain relatively skeptical of Dolan’s quirky character. Phil’s emotional reticence isn’t anything new, but the vulnerability that I would argue many people saw and heard today is indicative of how Phil really feels about being in the front office of a dysfunctional organizations. Phil is obviously excited about the opportunity but he realizes this is an enormous gamble that can affect his legacy. As Phil Jackson steps to the Broadway stage the sports world is watching the biggest audition of this basketball icon’s life. Seeing if he can keep Carmelo Anthony, take one!