Last week I posed five questions whose answers will define the Knicks off-season. At the top of the list was what would happen with the Knicks’ coaching situation. Now, despite the availability of the man considered by many as the greatest coach of all-time, I have learned that the organization determined long ago that Phil Jackson was not the answer they were looking for.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a well-placed Garden-source has indicated that Jackson, winner of 11 NBA championships as coach of both the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, was never seriously considered by the team, even immediately after Mike D’Antoni’s unceremonious departure back in March.
As Ken Berger pointed out, that New York failed to even check in on Jackson seemed odd, to say the least, but according to the source, this inaction was not for a lack of consideration or diligence. Instead, the powers that be are squarely focused on establishing continuity and stability, each of which have been notably absent over the last decade at MSG.
Considerable debate has ensued since the Knicks were eliminated from the playoffs over whether interim-coach Mike Woodson is the right man to lead the team going forward – much of the discussion centering upon Woodson’s ability to maximize offensive return on the Knicks’ investment in Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire – but speculation that New York wasn’t interested in Jackson due to age and health concerns may have been overstated.
The more pressing issue, according the source, is Jackson’s ability, or, more accurately, his perceived inability, to follow the Garden chain of command – especially with respect to media interaction and public analysis and/or criticism of his players. From management’s perspective, the franchise remains unwavering and on-track in its year-by-year plan to improve the club en route to capturing its first championship since the 1972-73 season.
Ultimately, Woodson – who improbably steered the Knicks to an 18-6 finish and a playoff berth during his watch – is probably the best choice for the job given Jackson’s MSG-disqualification, but it certainly reeks of short-sightedness and paranoia for the Knicks to have concluded that such an accomplished coach (and former Knick) doesn’t fit their needs. Especially without at least talking to him first.
If the Knicks are okay with winning 50 games-per-season, and then relying on occasional brilliance from Anthony to maybe, possibly advance in the playoffs, then Woodson is a perfectly fine choice. Assuming that their commitment to him isn’t for more than two or three years, Woodson probably won’t hurt the franchise. To go to the next level, however – especially given the club’s salary cap constricted roster limitations – it may take someone of considerably more gravitas manning the sidelines.
That someone, for better or worse, apparently will not be Phil Jackson.
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