Steve Mills believes that he and Phil Jackson can be a tandem that will “do something special” for the New York Knicks.
In an interview airing Thursday at 7 p.m. on SiriusXM NBA Radio, Mills talked about how he and Jackson can combine their strengths to turn the Knicks around.
“I look at our situation in terms of putting us in a position to win,” Mills said in an interview with Spike Lee. “Obviously he has tremendous, tremendous credibility, he’s won 11 championships, he understands how to build a team. From my standpoint, the relationships I have around the league with players and agents, as we start to think through strategically where we want to go from a free-agent standpoint, we’re going to be able to understand what players are available and want to come and play in New York. There are not going to be surprises.
“We’re going to have the relationships in place with players and agents, and you couple that with Phil’s credibility from a championship standpoint and coaching and what he’s done to build teams, I think together we can do something special.”
Mills admits that the Knicks’ courtship of Jackson did “lead to some problems” initially with head coach Mike Woodson. Mills said he wanted to make it clear to Woodson that he did not have any conversations with Jackson about coaching the Knicks after the first report came out that the two had met.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported that Mills met with Jackson about the possibility of Jackson becoming the team's next coach but that Jackson wasn’t interested in coaching, according to sources. Owner James Dolan said he did initially ask Jackson about the possibility of coaching the Knicks when they first had discussions.
“It was very tight,” Mills said of keeping the talks with Jackson quiet for some time. “It started to lead to some problems because even when it started to leak out that we had been having conversations, I wanted to make it clear to Mike Woodson in terms of our relationship that during this process or any other processes, I never had any conversations with anyone about coaching the Knicks.”
Former Knicks coach Larry Brown blasted the Knicks for how they have treated Woodson with the Jackson hiring in a recent interview with SiriusXM NBA Radio. During that interview, Brown also said Mills “has no clue” about basketball.
"I don't know what he knows about the sport, to be honest with you," said Brown, who worked with Mills during his lone season as Knicks coach. "I was with him. Steve Mills has no clue. They fired [Glen] Grunwald, who was tremendous. They told [Grunwald] they couldn't [sign] any older players. They didn't make any changes as the season went on, and there were some opportunities to do that.”
Dolan hired Mills to replace Grunwald at the start of the season, but his title and role have since changed with Jackson’s arrival.
“Well, obviously it has changed because I gave up the president title and just retained my title as the general manager,” Mills said. “And Phil is coming in and he is going to, you know, ultimately decide what we do from a player standpoint, what we do from a coaching standpoint.
“But when I took this job with the Knicks, I made it clear to Jim I wanted to come back and I wanted to try to help us win. And I looked at the opportunity as I got to know Phil, and we went through a three-month courting process.”
Mills said that during that "courting process" he had multiple meetings over several hours with Jackson to build a rapport at Dolan’s request.
“We had a meeting where I went and met with Phil, and then we had another meeting where Jim and I and Phil got together for five or six hours,” Mills said. “And then we had a weekend where we went away where we could just get to know each other personally. ... It was really important for Jim to feel that Phil and I could work together.”
Trees for Threes: The Knicks and PwC US will plant 1,500 trees and 200 shrubs in Jamaica Bay Park at part of the "Trees for Threes" program. The Knicks made 369 treys through 39 home games this season and PwC tripled that number in trees and shrubs.