Go get the Zen Master?
BEST OF THE BEST
Yes. It's likely the Knicks will make Mike Woodson their head coach for the next few seasons. But if Phil Jackson shows even a sliver of interest regarding the position, the team has to jump on the opportunity and make it a priority to land him.
Jackson is simply the greatest living basketball coach.
Out of the past 21 NBA championships, Phil Jackson won 11 of them, and he did it by facilitating a team offense that forced two of the game's greatest players, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, to sacrifice shots and become more willing passers -- a skill they always had, but a mindset they didn't.
That offense was the Triangle, which made all five players on the court scoring threats, and Jackson engineered the state of mind. The Zen Master is known to have an effective psychological and motivational style.
The Knicks built a strong reputation this past season on defense, but their offense didn't have enough creativity and balance. Too often, it was the Carmelo Anthony isolation show. Melo and Amare Stoudemire haven't figured out how to play off one another. They need a system that fosters that.
The Triangle would allow them to create a better tandem. Melo could occupy the low post (like Bryant) and Amare could man the high post (like Pau Gasol) for an effective two-man game playing to their strengths. Also, Jeremy Lin and Iman Shumpert would be able to better utilize their scoring ability. Every one of the Knicks' potential starters next season has offensive talent, but they need to be encouraged more to play together using screens, cutting and passing. Jackson can facilitate that. He knows how to get buy-in.
Jackson can also demand accountability on defense, just like Woodson has done. While Woodson is a great defensive-minded coach, only a few in the business are known for orchestrating offensive and defensive schemes that bring out the best in their players. Currently, Gregg Popovich and Tom Thibodeau are the best. But the best of the best is Phil Jackson. That's why he should be the leading candidate.
"Mi-ike Wood-son!" "Mi-ike Wood-son!"
Those were the chants you could hear at Madison Square Garden on March 16, when the Knicks were putting the finishing touches on a 115-100 win over the Indiana Pacers in Woodson's second game on the bench.
And those are the chants fans should be yelling next season.
The Knicks shouldn't engage in what would likely be a failed pursuit of Phil Jackson. They have an exceptional in-house candidate in Woodson.
He has the support of his players, he's proven he can win with the talent on the roster and he's shown that he can coach defense -- the one thing that has been scarce at the Garden for way too long.
Now Woodson deserves a chance to show what he can do with a full training camp and over the course of the NBA's traditional 82-game schedule.
He went 18-6 with the Knicks in the regular season, performing one of the best stopgap coaching jobs in NBA history.
Along the way, he preached accountability and defense. And it worked. In his first 15 games on the bench, the Knicks ranked in the top three in the NBA in defensive efficiency. More importantly, Woodson, somehow, someway, won with Anthony, Stoudemire and Lin in the lineup at the same time. With all three players healthy and starting for him, Woodson's Knicks went 6-1.
In doing so, the 53-year-old former Hawks head man showed that he can win when three of the team's offensive stars share the floor, something that Mike D'Antoni struggled to demonstrate.
So why flirt with Phil Jackson when you have the perfect candidate sitting on your own bench?