He coached Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant and won a record 11 NBA championships as coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Now, Phil Jackson is in an empire state of mind (cue Jay-Z and Alicia Keys — it’s only appropriate). Yesterday, the New York Knicks formally announced Jackson will be joining the franchise as president.
This is Jackson’s first front office gig, but he’s very familiar with NYC. He played for the Knicks from 1967-1978. And while Jackson’s a desk-job newbie, there won’t be any rookie hazing — he has tougher tasks ahead. He’ll be in charge of basketball decisions, like how to keep star forward Carmelo Anthony in the Big Apple when free agency begins this summer. Jackson will also need to deal with the head coaching position: Should the Knicks keep Mike Woodson or hire someone new, like Steve Kerr, an NBA analyst who played for Jackson during the Bulls’ dynasty in the 1990s? Or could Jackson slip back into his old role?
Answers will come in time. But what’s not in doubt is that Jackson’s arrival marks a new era of Knicks basketball. Known as the Zen Master for his calm demeanor on the sidelines as a head coach, Jackson takes control of an inconsistent Knicks team that was spiraling out of control just a few games ago. (Remember that awful seven game skid after All-Star break?) The Knicks are riding a six-game win streak and are currently in the hunt for the last Eastern Conference playoff spot with a 27-40 record.
The Knicks will count on Jackson to win their first NBA title since 1973 — a team he played on. And if anyone can turn the Knicks around, it’s Jackson. He has shown he can make teams into contenders and champions. He threepeated three times—yes three times—twice with the Bulls with Michael Jordan leading the charge and once with the Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Lakers. He then won two more titles with the Lakers in 2008-09 and 2009-10 in Los Angeles before stepping down as Lakers coach.
Jackson is well respected in the league and has a proven record of turning teams into winners — as a coach, of course. But how will he do as president of the club? A lack of draft picks (No first round picks this year. Yikes.) and a lackluster roster makes his new job difficult. He’ll need to woo impact players to MSG and strengthen the team around Melo — if the All-Star stays.
Phil Jackson has worked his magic on the sidelines. Now it’s time to see what the Zen Master can do from the front office.
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