Phil Jackson could very well be the Knight in golden armor the Knicks need, but there are obvious conflicts that must first be resolved. Primarily, the issue of autonomy can’t sit well at the capstone of the Knicks’ pyramid. After securing Carmelo Anthony, James Dolan went to great lengths to make Madison Square Garden feel like his star’s second home, surrounding him with familiar and trusted faces (Warkentein, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, hand picked coach Mike Woodson, and the good folks at Creative Artists Agency). Since the fateful trade, Dolan has also restored his front office to a comfortable amalgam of sycophants – Allan Houston, Steve Mills and even an abortive attempt at Isiah Thomas. Will Phil Jackson agree to be just another cog in this intricate cluster-fuckery-machine? Will Phil Jackson agree to prioritize stroking Dolan’s and Anthony’s egos above restoring the Knicks in the NBA’s competitive landscape? Not according to the Daily News’ Mitch Lawrence:
[M]aybe this entire story goes away next week when Jackson does his due diligence on Dolan and the Garden’s corporate world and finds that the front office is overstaffed with lieutenants who aren’t going anywhere. Then Jackson will tell the Knicks, thanks but no thanks.
That’s the answer we expect, based on a few conversations with people who know Jackson fairly well. They say he’d never agree to come in and try to rebuild the Knicks, if Dolan insists on continuing to think he’s another Jerry West.
“Phil would have to get assurances that Dolan would remove himself, entirely,” said one source. “Dolan gave up a lot of control with Donnie. He would have to give up even more with Phil.”
Donnie Walsh came in with all sorts of promises from Dolan that he would get “full autonomy,” only to find his boss working behind the scenes to bring Anthony to New York a little more than three years ago. Walsh had basically nothing to do with the deal and was horrified when he saw the extent to which Dolan, working in deep secrecy with Isiah Thomas, gutted the team for a limited superstar.
Walsh wasn’t Dolan’s hire, so in the end he didn’t have to keep his word. He was foisted on the Knicks by David Stern in the wake of the Thomas sex-harassment scandal.
But if Dolan hires Jackson, then the boss has to keep his promise this time. And make no mistake, Jackson is not leaving his cushy life in his beachside condo in Southern California if he doesn’t have it in writing that Dolan can’t interfere. No questions asked.
Jackson isn’t going to stand for Dolan’s meddling, nor should he. He isn’t going to stand for Knicks’
NSA PR staff following him and deciding when and to whom he may speak. He could probably score dozens of jobs with assurances that he be left to his devices. I anticipate that if Jackson agrees to come to New York it will be under iron-clad conditions guaranteeing front-office autonomy, including the ability to speak freely. Jackson will not agree to be treated like a child, subject to rigid and meaningless corporate structures and rules, competing with Dolan lackeys to advance the basketball agenda over the bullshit agenda. So before Jackson agrees to take the Knicks job, Dolan will have to agree to allow Jackson to dismantle the front office’s walls of dung. While I won’t call that an impossibility, since Dolan is nothing if not capricious, the following questions will have to be answered:
- What of CAA?
- What of Steve Mills?
- What of Allan Houston?
- What of Warkentein?
- What of Isiah Thomas?
- What of the media policy/Jonathan Sopranowitz?
- What of Dolan’s own say in matters of his toys?
If it seems far fetched that Dolan would agree to let anyone wipe away the vermin that have called MSG home for 14 years, well, it probably is.