Opening Tip: Oakley says Phil will be 'great'

Ex-Knick Charles Oakley is pretty familiar with Phil Jackson. He played for and against Jackson at different points in his 19-year NBA career.

Oakley's well aware of Jackson's new role in New York. And the former Knicks enforcer predicts that Jackson will be a "great" addition to the franchise.

"He's someone with a brand, an ex-Knicks player, 11 championships -- he's got he whole resume," Oakley said in a phone interview. "Having him is like taking a test and already having the answers. You can't go wrong when his hand is involved in what you're trying to do."

A league source has told ESPN that Jackson and the Knicks are expected to finalize a deal that will give the legendary former coach control of the club's front office by the end of this week. An official announcement might not come until next week, the source said.

Oakley predicted that Jackson, who has won 11 titles as a coach and two as a player with the Knicks, can help the franchise end its 41-year title drought.

"In this case, everyone's watching him like, 'What can he do? Can he pull the rabbit out of the hat again?" Oakley said. "He's done it with Michael [Jordan], Scottie [Pippen], Kobe [Bryant], Shaq [O'Neal]. Does he have one more left in him?

"All eyes are going to be on him. They don't call him the 'Zen Master' for nothing. We know he's going to have to put a great group together, whatever he tries to do. I know that he's going to be successful because it's been like that. I know that he's going to always try to get the right pieces, but it's hard to get pieces now."

Oakley, though, thinks that owner James Dolan, who has a history of getting involved in his executive's basketball decisions, needs to give Jackson the "power" to shape the Knicks' roster the way he sees fit.

"I think [Dolan] convinced Phil to come here [so] then to go back on what you said, it's going to look bad on Dolan's end because Phil is a guy who's got a lot of credibility and I think that the people in New York, they want something positive to happen," Oakley said.

"If you sign a man for three, four, five years [and] if you tell him he's got the power and authority to make moves, I know it's tough to give someone power when you've had power for so long [and] you give it to a man whose done this and done that somewhere else. Now he comes in here and things don't start out the way you plan, you might get a little irritated, but you just have to bite you're tongue," Oakley added. "They told me many times throughout my career to bite my tongue and I told them my tongue's been bleeding since I was born."

The outspoken Oakley was on Knicks teams in the 1990s that battled Jackson's Bulls. He's at a bit of a loss to explain why this year's Knicks team has been such a disappointment. The Knicks are 26-40 and on the outside of the playoff picture in the woeful Eastern Confernce.

"They don't have a bad team now. I think they have enough talent now to win as many games as they did last year (54). It just didn't happen," Oakley said. "That's up to the players. Look at what happened this year compared to last year -- it's a disaster.

"I'm putting a lot on the players head but they should be a lot better than where they are."

Chef Oak: Oakley recently appeared on Food Network's "Chopped." Oakley didn't win the show's "all-athlete" show but said he had a good time. He's been a cook since his playing days, when he says he cooked meals for his teammates. ... Oakley and ex-NBAer Jason Williams are teaming up to organize a charity golf tournament on Long Island in June to benefit the homeless. Oakley is also organizing a "Back to Basics" summer basketball camp at Manhattan College.

Question: Do you agree with Oakley? Will Phil be 'great'?

Up now: Mike Woodson says Phil would be good in New York and Celtics president Rich Gotham says that Boston will hate the Knicks when Jackson comes. Ian O'Connor says that getting Phil may be the next best thing to Dolan selling the team, Johnette Howard argues that James Dolan's pursuit of Phil Jackson reeks of desperation and Henry Abbott wrote that Phil Jackson doesn't know everything.

What's next: The Big East tournament is at MSG, so the Knicks are off until Saturday (when they play the Bucks).

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