We learned earlier that Phil Jackson has signed an agreement to become the Knicks president of basketball operations. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com tweeted that the contract being finalized is a five-year arrangement without any stake in ownership, to pay the coaching legend $12MM a year. The press conference announced by the Knicks for next Tuesday will indeed be the official introduction of Jackson as the new head of New York’s front office, a source tells Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Now that the news is more or less final, reactions to the deal are flooding in around the league.
Jackson’s discussions with the Knicks had been going on for several months before becoming a reality, reports Shelburne. Shelburne says that the Lakers had multiple internal discussions on the prospect of hiring Jackson, but never contacted his representatives because they knew they wouldn’t be willing to offer the amount of power that the Knicks were. A source tells Scott Cacciola of The New York Times that it was current Knicks GM Steve Mills who first met with Jackson to discuss him joining New York.
Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and J.R. Smith all expressed different levels of excitement and anticipation to meet Jackson and hear about his vision for the future of the team, per Peter Botte of The New York Daily News. Anthony says Jackson’s arrival won’t “have any effect” on his looming free agency decisions this summer, but Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com thinks ‘Melo should stick around since Jackson has shown himself capable of unlocking greatness in stars.
Some people are puzzled over the signing. One NBA executive told J.A. Adande of ESPN that Jackson’s relationship with Knicks owner James Dolan is doomed. “Phil and Dolan will not work. Like, never,” the exec said. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports thinks the Jackson signing is a confusing move for the Knicks. In a video segment, Spears predicts that there will be similarities to Larry Bird‘s setup in Indiana, where Jackson provides the final yes or no on team activities, but other team employees do the bulk of the front office “grunt work.” Spears doesn’t think Jackson will return to coach at any point, but he does think there will be constant pressure from Knicks fans to do just that, similar to the constant speculation of Pat Riley‘s return to the bench during Erik Spoelstra’s first seasons with the Heat.
Others are more optimistic about the deal. Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post thinks that characterizations of Jackson as successful only due to coaching the best talent are wrong, and that he has turned around imperfect teams like New York before. Zach Lowe of Grantland argues that the Knicks don’t actually need a complete overhaul in their front office because there are already good, progressive basketball minds in New York. Rather, Lowe says the Knicks need Jackson to add a calming personality to the team and put an end to their pattern of caving in to agents and making knee-jerk moves that undermine their otherwise smart team-building decisions. Lowe doesn’t think Jackson will relax his emphasis on the triangle offense in building the Knicks, pointing out that the system goes beyond Xs and Os for Jackson, connecting to his deepest philosophical beliefs. Howard Beck of Bleacher Report agrees with Lowe’s take, seeing this as the “Zen Master’s” opportunity to mentor an entire, unstable franchise, not just a handful of players.