The main point Ramona Shelburne’s fantastic article at ESPN on Phil Jackson and the Knicks future is simple:
Jackson senses the urgency and is becoming more hands-on with the team. Kurt Rambis as coach is letting that happen in a way that Derek Fisher didn’t.
But could this lead to Jackson coaching the Knicks’ home games next season?
Those close to him say Jackson seems more energized these days. He has lost about 20 pounds of the 30 he gained during his first two years on the job. Even Kobe Bryant noticed, remarking after Sunday’s game in Los Angeles that, “He looks great. Physically he looks good. I’m happy for him.”
There’s even talk Jackson could offer to coach home games next season, with Rambis coaching the road games. It’s an offer the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss once flatly rejected, but it could be an interesting compromise to hiring Rambis as the head coach next season.
Up to this point, Jackson has flatly shot down any suggestion of his return to the bench, and he talked even this week about enjoying spending part of the winter in Los Angeles. He splits time between there and New York and up to this point has been almost more consultant than hands-on team president at times.
Maybe that is about to change — but a step onto the bench is another matter.
As Carmelo Anthony said earlier this season: “He’s not coming down. He’s not sitting on that sideline. Those days are long gone.”
Logistically, it would be a nightmare. As close as Jackson and Rambis are, splitting time with them being two coaches feels like it will be as successful as the vast majority of two quarterback systems in college football. Teams need consistency, and despite their closeness, Jackson and Rambis do things differently. Even if the rotations remained similar the styles both in game and in preparations for the games would be different. And if you’re an assistant coach for the Knicks, how does the idea of rotating bosses judging your work sound?
Jerry Buss shot down the idea with good reason. If this is broached with him, James Dolan should do the same. Teams should have just one coach, just one voice.
But the fact Jackson has talked with Carmelo Anthony about the future and is becoming more hands-on is a good thing.
Just remember, Jackson has a summer of 2017 opt-out of his deal with New York. And much more than a return to the bench, that remains in play.