Phil Jackson shook hands with New York Knicks owner James Dolan, walked gingerly to the podium and comfortably lifted the microphones to fit his 6-foot-8 frame.
“I don’t have prepared remarks, as you can see,” Jackson said, practically bragging. “I’m shooting from the cuff.”
The skills Jackson showed yesterday – an ease with Dolan, a confidence that stems from winning 13 championships and an ability to speak publicly and persuasively – won him his introductory press conference. But today begins Jackson’s real term as the Knicks’ president, and a different set of skills – preparation and organization (though still an ability to work with Dolan) – will become essential now that the cameras are gone.
Dolan’s continued search for stars paid off in a big way. Yesterday. Today and beyond, this partnership exists at least one stage removed from the bright lights, in an area where the real work must be done.
Whatever happens from here, the Knicks and Jackson deserve each other.
Since he began overseeing the Knicks in 2001, Dolan’s defining move has been trading for Carmelo Anthony. Not content to wait for Melo in free agency the following summer, Dolan insisted the Knicks trade for him during the 2010-11 season. The result: The Knicks sent valuable assets to the Nuggets and, consequently, haven’t built a true contender around Melo.
At least Dolan got his star, the Knicks’ best player since Patrick Ewing.
Dolan has said the Knicks will often lead the NBA in payroll, because they play in the largest market. And kudos to Dolan for riding his advantage. But nothing precludes him from building balanced rosters rather than just chasing stars. Since Dolan took over, the Knicks have had more $10 million-salaried players than any franchise in the league:
And most of those Knicks players haven’t been worth their salary. Their cache inflated the perception of them in ways they didn’t back up on the court.
Jackson – whose salary is a reported $12 million, dwarfing his front-office counterparts around the league – is Dolan’s latest overhyped star.
Since retiring from coaching, Jackson has taken no significant formal steps to prepare for becoming a general manager. He hasn’t worked as a front-office assistant – his minimal contributions as a volunteer advisor for the Pistons hardly count – and he basically admitted to taking this job only because he’s too old to play and too limp to coach.
He doesn’t deserve a prime front-office position.
And with the exception of the pay, he doesn’t have one.
The Knicks risk losing their bester player this summer. Their roster is old, their cap space non-existent for next season. They have no first-round pick this year or 2016 and no second-round pick in any of the next four drafts.
This is a miserable situation only salvaged by New York’s drawing power.
That worked to get Jackson, but how much further that advantage extends depends entirely on the work Jackson puts in now.
Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, Jackson must plan to undertake the mundane tasks of scouting, analyzing and developing. As much as Dolan treats it differently, the job is not all glamor.
Jackson did what he was paid to do yesterday. But if he’s going to succeed with the Knicks, he must do more today while nobody is watching.