Phil Jackson’s Influence On Knicks Personnel

Phil Jackson didn’t waste time putting his stamp on the Knicks. Two days after owner James Dolan officially installed him as team president, Jackson re-signed Shannon Brown, whom Jackson had coached on the Lakers and whose 10-day contract with New York had expired, to a deal that covered the rest of the season and beyond. It seemed reasonable to expect at that point that the Knicks would start to resemble a latter-day East Coast version of Jackson’s old Lakers and Bulls teams.

Jackson has indeed surrounded himself with people from both of the teams for which he used to work, but the connections are not widespread with the Knicks organization. Brown was only one of three of Jackson’s former players the team has signed under the Zen Master’s watch, and only D.J. Mbenga is still with the Knicks. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jackson’s greatest influence appears to have been on the coaching staff, where two of his pupils will man the bench.

The Knicks haven’t hired everyone with a connection to Jackson who’s asked for a job, as Metta World Peace‘s fruitless clamoring for a contract demonstrates, and not all who worked under Jackson in the past wound up answering his call to do so again, as the Steve Kerr saga proved. Still, there are a half dozen with ties to Jackson who have either signed playing contracts with the Knicks, joined the team’s coaching staff, or agreed work under Jackson in the front office. Here’s a look at all of them.


  • Shannon Brown — The guard was already on the second of a pair of 10-day contracts he signed with the Knicks before Jackson officially came on board, and the contract to which Jackson signed Brown covered the rest of the season and also included a non-guaranteed salary for 2014/15. Still, the reunion didn’t last long, as Jackson and the Knicks waived Brown in July.
  • D.J. Mbenga — The Knicks signed Mbenga on Wednesday. He played for Jackson on the Lakers from 2008-2010.
  • Lamar Odom — Jackson took a minimal risk on the troubled forward, signing him to a deal on the final day of the regular season. The Knicks invested $5,202 in guaranteed salary for that last day of 2013/14, apparently in the hopes that Odom could either return to form as an NBA player, or at least that his non-guaranteed salary for 2014/15 would serve as a trade asset. Neither happened, and the Knicks waived Odom in July.


  • Derek Fisher — The longtime Laker was Jackson’s second choice to become the team’s head coach after former Bulls sharpshooter Steve Kerr spurned New York to coach the Warriors instead. Still, Fisher is in the job and at work installing the triangle offense that Jackson ran at both of his NBA head coaching stops.
  • Kurt Rambis — For an assistant to Fisher, Jackson hired the man who immediately preceded him as head coach of the Lakers. Rambis finished the 1999 season in that job before Jackson took over the following offseason, and later Rambis returned to the Lakers bench as an assistant under Jackson.

Front Office

  • Clarence Gaines Jr. — The Zen Master brought Gaines on in an informal advisory capacity. Gaines scouted for the Bulls during Jackson’s time in Chicago.

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