Phil Jackson New President of New York Knicks
Just as the New York Knicks shocked the basketball universe winning 54 games last year, their division and their first playoff series in more than 10 years, they have done a complete 180 this year. It's been a Murphy's Law kind year for the Orange and Blue that has it 13 games under .500 and currently 4 games out of the last playoff spot.
Think of a way for them to lose a game and they have done it. With criticism mounting, talk of a new head coach and a protest planned before their game against Indiana Wednesday night, rumors began that owner Jim Dolan had reached out to ex-Knick Phil Jackson. The meeting was brokered by mutual friend Irvin Azoff back in December. When Jackson made it clear that he had no interest in coaching, Dolan offered him President of Basketball Operations.
Jackson was introduced to the media Tuesday morning at the World's Most Famous Arena, the place where Jackson earned his first two championship rings with the Knicks, the last coming in 1973. Since then, Jackson added 11 more rings between the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Signing a 5-year contract at an estimated $12 million per year, the clock has started to see if he can add another ring to his illustrious career.
Phil Jackson spoke off the cuff after being introduced not relying on a pre-written statement. Aside from Dolan and General Manager Steve Mills, former teammates Walt "Clyde" Frazier and Dick Barnett attended as well. He began by talking about the concept of a team.
"We want to build a team. This is a franchise that developed a team back in the 60's that was consistently playing team basketball for 7, 8 years. That's the cache that I think brought me here. There are things I believe that the players should have that's important to them. They should have the security in knowing they will be supported by the organization and coaching staff. Putting yourself on the line, you need to have that support. This is something we want to build for them."
Dolan's history in meddling with his past hires has been well documented; most notably the Donnie Walsh saga, and more recently with his last GM, Glen Grunwald. Dolan rarely speaks to the media and thus, the media feels he has little regard for them. Aware of that, Jackson made a plea, as he emphasized he wants to change the negative perception surrounding the team.
"I want to develop relationships with people here. I'm reaching out to you today and the media people to say we can have an open relationship. We need your support and the fans need a positive atmosphere to come and enjoy the game and the players need a positive attitude in which to play."
Phil Jackson would not have taken the position if he was not guaranteed total autonomy and control of basketball operations. His first official order of business will be talking to Head Coach Mike Woodson and the team before they face the Pacers riding a 7-game winning streak. He's hoping his presence will have an effect on the rest of the season culminating in getting into the playoffs, even if their opponent is Miami or Indiana.
While not the most athletic player on those championship teams, Phil Jackson was a student of the game under legendary coach William "Red" Holzman who stressed passing the ball, finding the open man and playing good old fashion team defense. Jackson remembers when Holzman picked him up at Kennedy airport the year he was drafted by the Knicks in 1967. In short, driving to the city Jackson experienced New York City first hand as a kid threw a brick from the overpass, smashing the front window.
Not deterred, Holztman looked at Jackson and said, "You know New York is not the easiest place to live. But if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere."
Jackson has made it as a player in New York and as a coach in Chicago and Los Angeles. He wants to come full circle and make it as President of the New York Knicks.