While many fans believe Phil Jackson is doing the New York Knicks an injustice by way of the triangle, it’s actually something much worse.
By Robby Sabo
Quick, think fast. Which NBA presidents and/or general managers force a complete system upon their head coach?
Can’t come up with one? Or, is the more appropriate question, can’t think of more than one?
Yeah, I’m not surprised. It’s because there’s only one.
Phil Jackson, the fearless president and boss of the New York Knicks, is the only man who forces his philosophy onto the court to such an extreme extent.
Not only does he need to hire a coach he’s comfortable and familiar with, his roster must run the triangle offense. On the surface it doesn’t seem to be a problem. When you sit and ponder a little, you come to realize the true damage that it’s done.
This forceful nature of the hierarchy creates a structure in which Jackson automatically limits his options.
As we currently torture ourselves during this offseason period, we understand that the head coaching position is still open. Luckily for the Knicks, the candidates were pretty plentiful.
There was Luke Walton and Tom Thibodeau. Both are now long gone, off to other franchises. There still is Frank Vogel, a former Jax scout for a short period of time in Los Angeles.
Taking a step further, when Jax was initially hired over two seasons ago, there was Steve Kerr.
The point is, there aren’t enough candidates to go around in such a “limited” position.
Why Kerr rejected Phil’s offer, we’ll never know. Perhaps he simply loved the west coast that much more. Maybe he did take once glance at Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and bolted. Or, maybe, just maybe, he didn’t want that added pressure of a legend hanging on his every move from the press box.
It’s not easy being a middle man, and that’s exactly how Phil is treating the head coaching position of the Knicks. He’s a middle man in a basketball-like moneyball philosophy that decreases the coach’s importance.
If it wasn’t the case, Jax would act more like a normal NBA boss.
He’d go the route of Danny Ainge and pluck one of the more talented coaching minds from the college ranks. He’d pride himself in choosing personnel like Pat Riley does, while allowing Erik Spoelstra to coach his way through experience. He’d act as Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers does, in allowing Kerr to coach his squad to the fullest of his abilities.
Instead of doing that, Phil wants to have his cake and eat it too.
It’s not good enough to simply win as an executive, he needs to do it his way. He needs to reinvent the wheel completely.
Listen, nobody is claiming Jax shouldn’t hire somebody he’s comfortable with. He should. That goes without saying. But the mere fact that Tom Thibodeau, one of the best coaching talents on the market in years, wasn’t even a glimmer in the eye of the Knicks front office, is very troublesome indeed.
It’s even more troublesome that all reports had Thibs aching at the chance to coach at The Mecca.
What would be wrong with hiring the best coach and allowing him to implement his system? Jackson would still be the man in charge, lending a helping hand while choosing the best talent that suits his brand-spanking new brilliant coach.
This is what most onlookers fail to grasp. It’s not the triangle that Knicks fans are frustrated with. It’s not the triangle that’s the issue in the mind of many experts who attempt to bash it.
What’s wrong here is the overall forcing of an entire system and philosophy upon his head coach.
There needs to be some sort of cut-off point between Jackson and the guy who runs the day-to-day roster. Right now, there simply isn’t. And if Rambis is hired, well, we are now fully aware that there will never be a cut-off.
Jackson is basically looking to coach from the press-box; or whatever western state he’s currently having his next “curly moment” in.
Through all of these worrisome issues, however, it’s not officially time to pull the plug.
What Knicks fans asked of owner James Dolan was to hire a basketball mind and get the hell out of the way. He did that with Jackson, much to the celebration of New York City.
Now, after two seasons, we can’t ask Dolan to step in. That’s unfair.
Jackson deserves this next head coaching hire and the summer of 2016 to prove himself as an NBA executive. He deserves that time.
You can speculate all you want about whether Jax’s heart is truly into it. That’s OK. His mute ways and toying with the media only adds fuel to that fire.
In the end, it doesn’t matter. He deserves the time to get this franchise straightened out.
If after his time has come and gone, and the Knicks still aren’t championship contenders, you may then let the bashing begin.