Phil Jackson Firing First Start of Culture Change in New York
Dec 7, 2016; New York, NY, USA; General view as the New York Knicks are introduced before a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

With Phil Jackson no longer involved with the New York Knicks, the toxic atmosphere created could finally install some clarity and it could also form a whole new culture in New York. 

Phil Jackson’s goal since day one of his Knick tenure was to change the New York Knicks‘ culture of losing. With the game’s winningest coach in league history returning to the team that drafted him fans had full confidence, Jackson would live up to his promise. Three seasons later, the Knicks have lost 166 games, alienated one, and arguably both of the faces of their franchise, and now have an even worse reputation around the NBA.

Jackson immediately failed in creating a winning culture in New York. On the contrary, he made the Knicks’ losing culture even worse, toxic. Jackson never seemed to understand that the mentality of Phil Jackson, Lakers and Bulls coaching great, would not work as an executive.

After Jackson’s first season in New York, he created enemies within his own locker room. His comments on JR Smith, who he traded mid-season, saying he “exhibiting some delinquent behavior”, was the first sign of Jackson’s inability to deal with players. Smith was not the only player Jackson publicly voiced his discontent for, as he posted player reviews for his own players, publicly criticizing and simultaneously ostracizing them.

The concept of keeping things in house was simply never understood by Jackson.

Then there was the relationship between Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson. From the beginning, the two never seemed to get along. Jackson used mouthpieces in the media, as well as himself, to belittle his franchise player. The calls for Anthony to stop being a ball stopper, or for Anthony to “move on” from New York would slowly, but ultimately tarnish the two’s relationship. In his three long seasons in New York Jackson seemed to alienate all of his player, including his most prized acquisition.

Kristaps Porzingis, unhappy with Jackson’s treatment of mentor and teammate Carmelo Anthony, decided to skip an end of year meeting with Jackson. Jackson could not let this go, even though he seemed to be fine with Derrick Rose skipping games during the season out of frustration. Porzingis’ name was subsequently involved in trade rumors, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Days after the Porzingis trade speculation, we are at this point. Jackson is out, and the Knicks healing process can begin.

The culture of the Knicks was certainly changed during Jackson’s tenure, just not to a winning one. A culture of internal chaos, finger pointing and scapegoating now surrounds this Knick franchise.

With Jackson gone the Knicks can finally save the outlook of their franchise. The Knicks are the most poisonous franchise in the NBA currently. Despite being the biggest market in the NBA, Jackson during his tenure created an atmosphere no free agent wanted to be a part of.

Nobody is quite sure who will be the next President of the New York Knicks. Toronto Raptors GM and President Masai Ujiri is the Knicks’ target, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. The Knicks could also look in house, as Knicks GM Steve Mills could also replace Jackson. Whoever the Knicks choose to lead their franchise into the prime years of Kristaps Porzingis’ career, he will have a long road ahead of him in changing the reputation of the Knicks.

This culture change is not going to happen overnight. Fans can not expect to see stars like Chris Paul or Gordon Hayward to join the Knicks in free agency this summer after this move. Once Jackson’s replacement is found, making smart signings, avoiding signing players based on their name value like Jackson did with Joakim Noah, will be the first step to establishing a new culture. Rebuilding a torn locker room, filled with players who are disgruntled with how the previous administration treated them privately and publicly, is the second step.

The third and final step is making sure head coach Jeff Hornacek, if he is brought back, is on the same page with the new Knicks President. Agreeing on a system, something Jackson and Hornacek were seemingly never able to do, will help determine the future of the Knicks franchise.

The Knicks have a long road ahead of them in fixing the culture Phil vowed to improve. The change is going to take some time, but the Knicks are going in the right direction after Wednesday morning’s announcement.

Charles is a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University from Long Island, New York, majoring in broadcast journalism. As a member of Penn State's CommRadio, the official radio station of the College of Communications, Charles has written various articles covering Penn State football and basketball. In addition to writing, Charles also co-hosts Empire State College, the only New York sports talkshow on campus.