In March of 2014, in a move met by both optimism and skepticism, the New York Knicks hired Phil Jackson as their new president of basketball operations to the tune of a 5 year $60 million contract. A move that was historic not only because it was Phil Jackson’s first ever job in an NBA front office, but the fact that someone in that position was rarely paid double digit per year money.
Fast forward to today, Phil Jackson has had mixed results holding this title. He’s hit on the drafting of Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis (who’s come along farther than anyone has expected up to this point), drafting a promising but underplayed rookie in point guard Jerian Grant, and being able to resign all-star Carmelo Anthony, but he’s had many more misses. He’s missed out on big name free agents LaMarcus Aldridge (signed with San Antonio) and Greg Monroe (signed with Milwaukee), only to settle for overpaying middling players like Robin Lopez (4 years $55M) Arron Afflalo () and Kyle O’Quinn. He also went on to hire Derek Fisher right after his playing career as head coach only to fire him a year and a half later, and now he wants to keep interim head coach Kurt Rambis for the full time job.
The last part of his misses is what would really concern me if I was a Knicks fan. Kurt Rambis has a career record of 64-161 as head coach, and so far this year has the Knicks playing at an 8-16 record. For some context, Kurt Rambis was also a long time assistant coach under Phil Jackson for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000s. He’s had no real success as a coach in the NBA, and the last full-time coaching job he had was with the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2010-2012, where he went 100 games under .500 with a record of 32-132.
A potential removal of the interim tag of Kurt Rambis just screams of desperation on the part of Phil Jackson. His insistence on running the triangle offense is going to be the eventual downfall of this already morbid state of a once proud franchise. There have already been reports that the Knicks have no interest in former Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, which makes absolutely no sense to me. From all that I’ve read, Thibs would jump at the chance to coach the Knicks and he’d be a perfect fit there too (perfect fit just about anywhere).
And all this is taking into account that Phil Jackson has an opt-out clause in his contract after the 2016-17 season. Rumors have been flying around the last few months about Phil wanting to exercise that opt-out in order to return to the Lakers, especially if Jeanie Buss decides to fire her brother Jim. If I’m Knicks owner Jim Dolan, and Phil comes to me during the summer wanting to hire Kurt Rambis full time, with the opt-out clause hanging over the franchise for the next season, I’d be willing to bite the bullet and let Phil Jackson go back to Los Angeles a year early. Start fresh so you’re not hamstrung by hiring Rambis to a multi-year contract with Jackson gone anyways, and as it stands right now, the Knicks don’t look like they’re heading up in the standings anytime soon anyways.
Article by Thomas Mooney