(Photo via nytimes.com)
As crazy as this may sound, I actually urge James Dolan to be more hands-on with his team. While it’s painfully obvious that Dolan and NBA knowledge don’t go hand-in-hand, I think it’s time for him to take a stand against the bully in the room, Phil Jackson. Back in 2014 when Dolan hired Jackson to become the Knicks’ President of basketball operations, the Big Apple fan base was ecstatic to know that the Zen Master himself would be taking the helm of their beloved franchise. However, it has recently become more clear that maybe this isn’t the match made in heaven that we initially hoped for.
In the first two full seasons under Jackson, the Knicks have a combined record of 49-114 and still have many questions across the board. First, let me say on record that I understand that rebuilding teams take time to change and get better. I know that Phil is not to blame for all of their struggles and there are actually things that I think he has done a good job with. But, as I see the direction that this team is soon to head in under Phil’s watch, I cannot help but be concerned.
Phil’s constant insistence on hiring a head coach who follows the Triangle mold is troublesome, not only for the franchise, but for the fans as well. Sure, Phil Jackson loves Kurt Rambis like a lifelong buddy, but that doesn’t mean he is the best man available for the job. Coaches like Tom Thibodeau and Jeff Van Gundy (both former Knick assistants with great reputations in the NBA world) are at the top of most team’s available coaches list. Unfortunately, Rambis hasn’t been mentioned on that list.
In his last coaching gig with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2009-2011, he had a combined 32-132 record. Usually a resume like that would hurt someone’s chances of getting another head coaching position, but not with Jackson. All he sees is the fact that Rambis coaches the Triangle and frankly, that seems to be the only qualification needed to coach a Jackson-led franchise. This becomes a problem because it seems likely that Phil Jackson will overlook any idea or “Phil-osophy” that isn’t his own (hah, get it?). He hasn’t realized that the Triangle system is becoming more and more obsolete in this league. Teams are faster-paced and more free-flowing than the Triangle allows for. Sure, the system preaches passing and movement in the half-court, but since its implementation into the Knicks roster, it hasn’t produced the winning results that teams usually look for throughout the course of an NBA season.
That is why I think it might be time to move on. I know people may be more patient than I am, quoting the “Rome wasn’t built in a day” phrase, but when you give someone a 5 year, $60 million contract to right the ship, you kind of want to see some steps towards progress. I will give Jackson credit for drafting Kristaps Porzingis, a move that could certainly become the foundation of the Knick’s future. The Knicks can have a bright future, but it is up to the President to put a coach in place who can harness that potential, not fill the seat with one of his pals.
His unwillingness to hire someone outside his core circle is putting the team at an extreme disadvantage. Plus, when you add the New York media that piles on Jackson and his shortcomings as an NBA executive, this becomes another distraction that the Knicks simply don’t need. I still have the utmost respect for Jackson being on the Mt. Rushmore of NBA head coaches, but I expect my President of Basketball Operations to know more than just the X’s and O’s. It’s time to pull the plug on this operation.
– J. Yellin