This one may surprise you.
Former Knicks president and GM Isiah Thomas -- the same guy who presided over some of the team's worst seasons -- helped bring Phil Jackson to New York. Of course, Jackson's five-year, $60 million contract certainly didn't hurt. But Thomas did play a small part in Phil's decision.
Jackson explained Thomas' role in his decision during an interview on ESPN Radio's "Mike & Mike" show on Wednesday.
Here's how it happened:
Back in 2004, Thomas, then the Knicks' president, reached out to Jackson about possibly coaching the team. Jackson then asked Thomas about his relationship with Dolan because the coach had heard so many negative stories about the owner.
"He was enthusiastic about the basketball program and he was enthusiastic about the owner," Jackson said Wednesday. "I checked that against the other things you hear in the press and the naysayers that talk a little bit about the Knicks. ... So I went in [to his recent negotiations with Dolan] with an open mind."
Dolan assured Jackson that he would have full autonomy over basketball decisions, and convinced him over a lengthy courtship to take the job as Knicks president.
Dolan said Tuesday that he is "out of his element" when trying to influence basketball decisions -- a line that many Knicks fans would probably agree with. While Dolan said he felt it was necessary to get involved in basketball decision-making in the past, he told Jackson that will subside now that the new president is in town.
"Basketball is not his first choice," Jackson said of Dolan. "That's why I'm here."
Jackson also appeared on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's "The Michael Kay Show" on Tuesday and revealed some interesting nuggets about him and the Knicks. Here are a couple of highlights from his interview:
On Melo staying in New York: Jackson seems confident that Anthony will re-sign with the Knicks this summer.
Anthony has said he will opt out of the final year of his contract and test free agency. He can sign a deal with the Knicks that is one year longer and worth $33 million more than any pact he can sign with another team.
"I think the best opportunity is to stay," Jackson said. "There haven't been may players who really wanted to leave. Financially it's a better opportunity. The ability to win in New York is such an allure. It's such a magnet for players to be in a place where the game matters, fans matter, they care about the game. All these things make New York a great place for Carmelo to stay. I think he's grown accustomed to living here. I think he's kind of grown into that beat. I think he realizes that there's hope. There's strong hope and there's a strong reason for him to stay."
Helping Melo: Jackson had something interesting to say about Anthony on Tuesday. In complimenting Anthony, Jackson noted that the star is one of the best individual isolation players in the game.
Given that statement, it's fair to wonder how Jackson thinks Anthony's style of play fits with the Triangle offense, which is predicated on ball movement and constant player motion.
Jackson was asked by Kay how he thinks he can help Anthony.
"Just provide him the format. Provide him the coaching format that says we understand how great of a scorer you are, but the reality is you're going to get double-teamed, and to read that and be in the right position and move the ball at appropriate times," Jackson said.
On his relationship with Dolan: Much has been made of Dolan saying Jackson will have autonomy over basketball decisions. Dolan has made this promise before (see Walsh, Donnie) only to have a different scenario play out in the coming months.
So why does Jackson think it will be different with him?
"I can't guarantee anything. This is a step-by-step process," he said. "I hope to be able to provide this organization with a championship and the fans and Jim Dolan's convinced me that he really cares about winning a championship. He really doesn't want to have to tinker and do things inside of a system of player management and those type of things that sometimes get credited. ... He just wants to be the fan that comes and sees a team that makes you proud on the floor."
Jackson was asked by Kay what would happen if Dolan started to take Jackson's power away.
He again cited his agreement with Dolan.
"That's been what we've shook on. That was the agreement that we made. ... That means that whatever changes have to be made, that I'm authorized to make those changes, and he said, 'You've got it.' I've got the assurances, and I hope that those things are the things that make those things go."
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