Teams keep asking if Phil Jackson wants to come back to coaching. This is a guy who has had both hips and one knee replaced (with the other likely), who has spent too many years on the road sleeping in beds too short for his 6’10” frame, having showerheads hit him in the middle of the back. He’s not eager to return to the bench and that life. The Knicks reportedly offered Mike Woodson’s job up, Jackson said no.
What he wants is a front office role, he wants to direct and guide a franchise ala Pat Riley.
In an attempt to save face after a terrible season, Knicks owner James Dolan has offered him a front office spot, reports Frank Isola a the New York Daily News.
Phil Jackson has been offered a front office position with the Knicks and is expected to give the club a decision sometime next week, the Daily News has learned.
According to an NBA source, Garden Chairman James Dolan has met with Jackson about a potential return to the franchise where he was a member of the Knicks’ only two championship teams. Jackson also won 11 titles as a head coach with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers but apparently has no interest in coaching the Knicks.
The question is what role is he taking on. It’s hard to picture Jackson in a traditional GM role, scouting on the road and handling the details of complex trades and the salary cap. However, he would be “more than a consultant” according to the report. Consultant seems to be the role Jackson wants. Would he work with just hired GM Steve Mills?
Then there is the really big issue — who has final say?
The other major stumbling block would be Jackson’s ability to work with Dolan, who has a history of being a meddling owner. Jackson would be handsomely compensated and will likely be promised full autonomy. Of course, the same was true of Donnie Walsh, an executive with more experience who was eventually forced out by Dolan after Dolan hijacked the Carmelo Anthony negotiations from Walsh.
These kind of president/GM situations work in other cities — Riley and Andy Elisburg in Miami; Larry Bird oversees Walsh in Indiana. Of course, in both of those situations the owners stands back out of the way and lets the basketball people make the basketball decisions.
Jackson is a Knicks legend who has talked fondly in the past of working for that franchise again. Depending on the details, this also could be the kind of front office job Jackson has been looking for. He could be the savior the Knicks front office needs and his legend would grow if he could make the team a contender again.
But there have been a lot of saviors in New York, a lot of good basketball minds who couldn’t — or were not allowed — to make it work. Jackson has to see that history and really think twice about stepping into Madison Square Garden again.