The Jackson-Knicks Marriage: What’s the Worst That Can Happen?

Updated: March 19, 2014
 The Jackson Knicks Marriage: Whats the Worst That Can Happen?

by Jim McIsaac (Getty Images)

What’s the worst that can happen? Phil Jackson, the “Zen Master,” is the winning-est coach in professional sports history. He is a mastermind of offensive technique, and he has ties with the New York Knicks that run way back to 1967 along with being picked up by Red Holzman in a red Chevy Impala. Everything seems pretty copacetic.

At least, for now, that is. There are things that Phil Jackson brings, and there are also things he doesn’t bring. Let’s do a quick rundown of the pros and few cons P-Jax will bring into his role as President of Basketball Operations at the Madison Square Garden for the Knicks:


  • He has credibility, and probably more than anyone else could ever bring this Knicks team. Again, he carries a winning attitude wherever he goes. For his philosophies and habits to rub off on the Knicks is a win in any situation
  • He is attractive to players and coaches outside of the organization. With Jackson as the puppeteer of the franchise, he will almost certainly use his brand to recruit the likes of big-name players — such as LeBron James and Kevin Love — and coaches league-wide. Who wouldn’t want a crack at working with Phil Jackson and having his knowledge passed down to them?
  • Phil simply knows how to win. He implements team basketball, and if you don’t like it, you don’t play for Phil. Many hope he will bring light back to the darkness that has been the MSG over the past decade. He has a vision, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to trust and work with his vision in order to build a winner.


  • Mr. Jackson has never taken the role of a front-office executive before. Analysts are coming out of the woodwork with doubted expectations in his inaugurate position. Coaching and managing can be a completely different animal. Will Jackson be up to the task of proving everyone wrong? Only time will tell.
  • Jackson is 68-years-old, and he has had five surgeries over the past year on numerous parts of the body. Is he going to be able to travel with the Knicks? Will he be able to do his own scouting? How much time will he even spend in New York, both during the season and during the off-season? This job can take a toll on one’s physical state. Donnie Walsh left in a wheelchair.
  • How much say will Jackson have over James Dolan in the end? Mr. Dolan can give his blessing to Jackson “willingly and gratefully” all he wants, but at the end of the day, Dolan cuts the checks and his say will be weighted on the reports that he gets from Jackson. I need to see James Dolan walk the walk, even though I was highly impressed with the amount of public speaking he has given the Knicks fans over the past day.

There’s a pretty equal amount of prominence in this situation as there is backlash. Phil has always been a winner all the way back to his coaching days. He will be taking up a trade that is new to him, however. That said, throughout his career, he has brought in players to his teams whom he felt could be valuable assets to winning championships, and he has helped with player recruitment. That’s a good sign for the future of the Knicks.

How long does it take Jackson to build a contender? Everyone is aware of New York’s draft pick situation and the salary cap stranglehold they are in until the end of next year. Is next year simply a throwaway? How does everyone react if it is? How does James Dolan react? Come 2015, the Knicks can provide ample cap space, and they will have their own draft pick in the 2015 draft. Jackson will have much to work with, and he already has the expectation on his shoulders that the Knicks should be championship contenders in 2015-16. Is this fair to Jackson?

136647161 crop 650x440 1 The Jackson Knicks Marriage: Whats the Worst That Can Happen?

by Chris Trotman (Getty Images)

It really should be. There is no way Jackson is buying into a four to-five-year rebuilding plan, especially at his age and with the looming free agency of Carmelo Anthony, who projects to stay with New York and learn under Jackson. Things need to start now. This summer is going to be very reminiscent of Donnie Walsh coming in and mopping the floor with bad contracts and creating salary space. If not for the last say of Dolan during the Walsh era, things would have went even better than they did. That is a fear I have for the Jackson-Dolan marriage. The rambunctious fans of New York seriously lack the essence of patience, and if they come howling for championships and winning basketball, Dolan could once again fall back on the panic switch and make a move that makes fans happy rather than what is right for the organization.

In the end, this could be something that wears and tears at the Jackson-Dolan relationship. Sure, they’re happy-go-lucky now, but so is every other relationship when it begins.

I (James Dolan) take you, (Phil Jackson) to be my lawfully-wedded (President of Basketball Operations), to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until (Phil’s contract expiration or Dolan’s rage face) do us part.

Can Jackson and Dolan be each other’s everything through better and worse? History would love to slap a fat “no” onto that prospect, but no one really knows. If the Knicks want to reach basketball euphoria once again, the same way that they were in the 1970′s and 90′s, Dolan will have to trust basketball people over himself and let them make the decisions for him.

The worst that can happen is Phil Jackson is not cut out to be a general manager, strikes out in next year’s free agency-palooza and Isiah Thomas is brought in to replace Jackson while bestowing the head coaching job to Allan Houston. But that’s going out on a limb. It’s tough to doubt what Phil Jackson can do for the Knicks going by what they’ve amounted to in recent years along the credibility he carries. Is that enough to turn the ship around?

phil jackson1 The Jackson Knicks Marriage: Whats the Worst That Can Happen?

by Nathaniel S. Butler (Getty Images)

It needs to be, because there is now a very heavy expectation on Jackson’s shoulders to produce, although it’s not like being pressured to win is anything new to him. In the end, winning in New York will ultimately be a capstone on Jackson’s more-than-epic career in basketball. He would be able to ride off into the sunset as the greatest to ever do it on every level. I confide in Jackson and the Knicks. I hope they confide in themselves.

Keep your heads high, Knicks fans. There is much to cheer about. The worst is hopefully behind us, and here’s to assuming that it stays there. Optimism is powerful, so let’s all wish Jackson the best of luck in the position and let him work his “Zen Master” skills on the franchise in which he came into the NBA.

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 The Jackson Knicks Marriage: Whats the Worst That Can Happen?

Steve Scafidi

Analyst | Reporter at STC Media
Steve Scafidi is an undergraduate at William Paterson University majoring in Communications. He is an analyst of the NBA & NFL. Scafidi provides coverage and analysis of the New York Knicks & New York Giants.