Rumor: Masai Ujiri could succeed Phil Jackson in running Knicks

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP
8 Comments

How much longer will Phil Jackson remain the Knicks’ president?

He could bolt for the Lakers. A silly idea like hiring Kurt Rambis as permanent coach could cause a chasm between Jackson and owner James Dolan, who holds the power in the relationship. At minimum, it seems Jackson would prefer not to stay beyond his current cotnract.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

To Dolan’s credit, he is giving himself a safety net for when Jackson’s contract expires in two seasons or if Jackson decides to step away or is fired before his deal runs out.

Among the list of potential successors is believed to be Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri, the highly regarded Africa-born executive who has an interesting history with Dolan.

It’s also worth noting that Ujiri was originally brought to Toronto by Tim Leiweke, former CEO of Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE). Leiweke has since left Toronto and has started a business with Azoff. There’s that man again.

Ujiri is under contract for two more years so even if he wanted to leave Toronto there is no guarantee the Raptors would let him out of his deal.

Azoff, manager of the Eagles and friend to the music-loving Dolan, helped connect Dolan and Jackson. Could Azoff do the same with Ujiri?

Ujiri left the Nuggets for a raise with the Raptors, and the Knicks could offer an even higher salary. If Dolan wants to spend big on a general manager, a proven success like Ujiri makes more sense than Jackson, who had no front-office experience.

Dolan knows Ujiri’s résumé well. Ujiri got such great return trading Carmelo Anthony on an expiring contract (from Denver) and Andrea Bargnani on a massive contract (from Toronto) to New York, Dolan reportedly blocked a trade for Kyle Lowry fearing Ujiri would fleece him again. Of course, the Lowry trade would’ve worked in the Knicks’ favor.

Dolan’s big spending should give New York a significant advantage – the ability to attract the best people. Lately, that has meant Jackson and Derek Fisher, who also had no experience in his job. It’d make a lot more sense if it meant the impressive Ujiri.

But logical and the Knicks don’t often cross paths.

Ujiri might not want to leave Toronto. The Raptors might not let him, depending on the timing. Dolan might change course.

This is a nice idea for Knicks fans to enjoy for a moment, but there are so many roadblocks to it actually happening.