Phil Jackson’s days running the Knicks into the ground are over. The two sides will part ways on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. The Vertical first reported that New York was reconsidering their future with Jackson at the head.
Update: Wednesday, June 28: The Knicks officially announced Jackson’s departure, releasing the following statement:
“After careful thought and consideration, we mutually agreed that the Knicks will be going in a different direction,” said Mr. Dolan. “Phil Jackson is one of the most celebrated and successful individuals in the history of the NBA. His legacy in the game of basketball is unmatched. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the Knicks as both a player and an executive.
“While we are currently evaluating how best to move forward regarding the leadership of the organization, I will not be involved in the operation of the team,” continued Mr. Dolan. “Steve Mills, the team’s general manager, will run the day-to-day business of the organization over the short term. Tim Leiweke, who brings tremendous expertise and experience in sports franchise management from both Toronto and Los Angeles and is our partner in the Oak View Group, will advise and work with Steve on an interim basis to help develop a go-forward plan.”
This news comes on the heels of the recent report that Carmelo Anthony’s camp had been seeking a buyout. In addition to more recently isolating Kristaps Porzingis, Jackson had made his intentions regarding Anthony quite clear. He would look to move the 33 year old. When speculation of a potential buyout arose, perhaps Jackson was more open to the idea than James Dolan would have preferred.
Clearly, if the Knicks were to move Anthony, he’s still a skilled, high level player capable of reeling back something of value in return. Jackson’s continued criticisms of the star, however, seemingly knocked the star’s reputation around the league. No one wants damaged goods, and Jackson’s disdain for Anthony gave off the impression that this is what the executive considered him to be.
Moving to trade Anthony and start fresh looked to be the smart move for the Knicks, given their continued struggles. Jackson obviously didn’t begin to go about the process in the right way. His decision to air out the team’s dirty laundry (and moreover, his own personal thoughts on the team’s two major stars) continued to be an ill-advised poor choice in judgement. That’s no way to run an organization and/or win the support of those around you. The Knicks subsequently became a joke, amongst opposing personnel, fans, and the media alike.
Ironically enough, creating a positive culture was primarily what New York brought Jackson in to do. Given his winning ways as a player and coach, creating that type of culture was the objective. The assumption was that winning ways would follow. Obviously, neither came to fruition. Jackson’s vision as to how run a team, often being stubborn with a “my way or the highway” mentality, isolated those he tried to build working relationships with. It’s difficult to put a winning product on the court if there’s no sense of unity.
The Knicks actually had a very good draft, selecting the versatile and defensive-minded Frank Ntilikina and “3 and D” candidate Damyean Dotson. Both players are athletes who can potentially excel in a number of situations. Still, it’s worth pondering why the writing on the wall could not have been seen before the draft. Would the organization have drafted differently with someone else running the show? At the very least, it’s safe to say that Steve Mills and Co. will no longer be seeking out players who excel specifically in the triangle offense.
Will New York still look to move Anthony as this summer progresses? Would the star be interested in sticking around if the Knicks can provide some post-Jackson clarity? Can the team win with him still in town? These are all questions to ponder in the coming days, but at least such a decision has been made before free agency begins.
The Knicks were looking for a fresh start, and they’ll get one: a fresh start from Phil Jackson, that is.