NEW YORK –- The reports Friday about the Knicks courting Phil Jackson are exactly what the fans want to hear.
They want to hear the franchise is trying something, anything, to end the misery. And now comes the news that the team has reached out to the greatest coach of our time, the Lord of the Rings himself, giving a furious fan base a ray of hope.
But if James Dolan is serious about trying to get Jackson, then Dolan will have to do more than open his checkbook.
Dolan needs to bring Jackson in to run the team from the front office and give him full and complete autonomy. Let Jackson do what Pat Riley should’ve been able to do here years ago, but left to do in Miami instead.
Stephen A. Smith reported that Knicks president and general manager Steve Mills met with Jackson about coaching the Knicks, but sources told Smith that Jackson wasn’t interested. Another source told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne that Jackson is open to the possibility of coaching for a short period of time if necessary, during a transition period for a team with championship aspirations.
But the idea of running his own team, especially a team close to his heart like the Knicks, is something that might lure Jackson back in the game.
The New York Daily News reported Friday that Dolan personally met with Jackson, and that the Knicks have offered him a front-office position. According to the News, Jackson could give his decision sometime next week.
Jackson has nothing left to prove as a coach after winning 11 NBA championships. But shaping a franchise, and returning the Knicks to the kind of glory they haven’t experienced since Jackson helped New York win two titles as a player in the early 1970s, could be enticing.
And forget about just bringing Jackson in as a consultant. How much could he really help in that capacity anyway? Give him the keys to the organization, complete control, and enough time to execute his plan and take advantage of the resources Madison Square Garden has.
We have no idea how Jackson would do as an executive. He could be a total failure. But Jackson is probably the biggest name available that would appease angry fans and help them endure next season’s doom and gloom, until the team can chase some big free agents in 2015. Fans could probably accept next season’s struggles knowing that a proven winner like Jackson is in charge and has some sort of plan. Few in the history of basketball know winning like Jackson does.
The Zen Master certainly has the right temperament to deal with the pressures of New York. But he won’t be in a position to succeed if he doesn’t have the freedom to hire the people he wants, including the coach.
And if Jackson wants to make a blockbuster trade, he has to be able to do it with Dolan’s blessing -- and not Dolan’s meddling.
Jackson could be the first major piece of the rebuilding phase. If Dolan gives him total control, then Jackson could make a convincing pitch to Carmelo Anthony about how he plans to turn around the franchise.
It would be hard for Anthony not to put his trust in a man who got Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal to buy into his vision and approach.
There are no guarantees Jackson could restore the Knicks to their former glory. But the same goes for anybody else the team might consider bringing in, even Jeff Van Gundy and John Calipari –- two proven coaches who would want ample control as well.
It’s worth every penny and every ounce of power Dolan can spare to see if Jackson is interested.
If Dolan doesn’t offer Jackson complete autonomy, it’ll be more of the same for the Knicks, which have been stuck in a rut for more than a decade. This is Dolan’s opportunity to really do something about the Knicks’ current awful state of affairs. This is a prime chance to usher in change.
If he’s serious about turning the team around, Dolan has to do more than open his wallet. He has to give Jackson the keys.