Believe it or not Phil Jackson is going to take over the Knicks as team president.
Jackson had been rumored for two weeks about taking over this job, but there was always a lingering doubt that he would do it. For starters, he would be coming to MSG, which is run by the mercurial James Dolan, a man better known for butting heads with basketball types rather than improving his own team. Maybe Jackson's first duty is to find Dolan's rolodex and burn any numbers to Isaiah Thomas.
Secondly, the Knicks do not have a great roster, nor a first round pick in this year's draft. And, oh did I mention its lone super-star, Carmelo Anthony, might be out of town come this summer when he opts out July 1. That combined with Jackson's love for the west coast, and a last ditch effort by Lakers' star Kobe Bryant to convince LA's front office to keep Jackson in Hollywood left a shadow of doubt over the whole signing.
Yet, here he is. Phil Jackson is riding across country on his white horse, with a satchel strapped to the saddle containing 13 NBA championship rings. He comes here with a brand new five-year $60 million contract in hand. A contract that will pay him $12 million a year to perform the toughest job of his NBA career -- revive a dead franchise.
Jackson will assume control of all basketball operations and duties. He will pick the next coach (likely one of his old assistants, like Brian Shaw, from his days with the Lakers), and he will ultimately pick players who fit his famed Triangle Offense.
What this means for current General Manager Steve Mills, and Assistant General Manager Allen Houston is an open ended question. ESPN reported that Mills is likely safe and will remain in the organization. However the New York Daily News says Mills is a goner with Phil in town.
"'Phil doesn't want to work with Steve,' said a person close to Jackson. 'Mills doesn't know what to think, Dolan is calling the shots on this one'" (Daily News).
In all likelihood, Mills will get a reduced roll in the organization. As for Houston, the belief is that he is safe since he will run the Knicks D-League squad in Weschester.
The Knicks need Jackson's basketball IQ in a big way. They have been run so deep into the ground for the past 15 years, the respectable franchise they once were in the 1990s is nothing but a long and distant memory.
While he may not have front office experience, one should never question his ability to communicate with basketball players and coaches. He won 11 titles as a coach for a reason, and if anyone can go out to recruit and sign players to contracts it's a former coach who has been there and done that. Players like to hear from guys who have been in their shoes before. Players will respect Jackson, and in turn consider coming to the Knicks.
In that light, brining Jackson to New York is a no brainer. While Jackson has been quoted for publicly criticizing Anthony and teammate Amar'e Stoudemire, only Jackson has the power to mend those fences and convince Anthony to stay in the Garden.
If Jackson convinces Anthony to stay, more power to him. If, however, Jackson feels that Anthony doesn't fit what he is looking for, nobody in New York is going to bat an eye. For as good as a player as Anthony is, he has been an infamous ball-hog in the worst way, and the word "clutch" doesn't exactly stick to him.
The Knicks can only hope that Jackson can do for the Knicks, what their old coach Pat Riley has done for the Miami Heat. Ultimately what will make or break this attempted turnaround will be the relationship between Jackson and Dolan.
If Dolan gets in the way, as he is known to do, this will be a relationship that crumbles like a deck of cards. For the first time in his long tenure as Knicks owner, Dolan has to take a back seat -- kinda like the way he does with his hockey team. You rarely hear Dolan raise a fuss over the Rangers, he gives all responsibility to Glen Sather, and never bothers him. He has to treat Jackson like Sather. Leave him alone and let him rebuild the Knicks -- it's the only way New York can turn things around.