Barring a miracle, the New York Knicks championship drought will reach 41 years at the end of this season. It is being reported that Phil Jackson — who played for the Knicks the last time they won a championship in 1973 — will try to end that drought as the new team president of basketball operations.
Jackson will reportedly receive control over the day-to-day basketball decisions. Steve Mills, the current president and general manager, will remain on the staff in a reduced role.
Jackson does not have any management experience, but he will bring his unrivaled NBA success. Jackson has 13 NBA championships in his career — 11 as a coach and two as a player.
However, Jackson’s new position will not come with Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, or Shaquille O’Neal around to play. That is not to diminish Jackson’s coaching credentials, but the Knicks do not currently have enough talent to be a contender.
Jackson’s first challenge will be convincing Carmelo Anthony to re-sign with the Knicks this offseason. It will not be easy after the turmoil that the Knicks have gone through this season, but Jackson’s rings and track record should help that cause.
Beyond the decision on what to do with Anthony, the Knicks are currently strapped with bad contracts that do not expire until 2015 in Tyson Chandler, Andrea Bargnani, and Amar’e Stoudemire. Unless the Knicks make a trade they can not drastically improve the roster until then.
The Knicks also have a first round pick in 2015, but they do not have one this year in a season they could be a lottery team. The Knicks traded the pick to Denver in the Anthony trade.
Jackson will also have to decide who should coach the Knicks going forward. Mike Woodson’s job security has been in question the entire season. A playoff run could persuade Jackson to keep Woodson, but that is unlikely.
In addition, Woodson does not run Jackson’s system and Jackson would likely want to hire a coach he is familiar with. The coach will also have to be prepared for a tough job, whether Anthony returns or not.
Jackson will reportedly have full control over basketball decisions, but he will still be employed by Knicks’ owner James Dolan. In the past Dolan has interfered with basketball decisions and the results have not been good. The Knicks have one playoff series victory since 2001 and missed the playoffs in 8 of those seasons.
Dolan also has a stringent media policy. Jackson has been known to freely speak his mind and that may not sit well with the owner. Dolan may agree to have minimal input on basketball decisions, but only time will tell if that remains true.
Jackson — who turns 69 in September — will not have an easy job. The Knicks will have to improve in many areas to be a contender, and it may require a rebuilding process.
Jackson will provide a well-known personality that can influence potential free agents. He can bring a culture of winning to a franchise that has been associated with losing and mismanagement.
It is not certain Jackson will succeed in his new role, but it is worth giving the most successful NBA coach of all-time a chance to save the franchise that drafted him 47 years ago.