“The new name at the top of a coaching search a year from now for a team near a championship, or just any team in New York City: Phil Jackson,” said the NBA itself at the close of the 2010-11 season.
Less than a week ago, when the Journal Times reported that “with money being no object, the scuttlebutt is the Knicks brass may offer [Jackson] a four-year, $50 million deal.”
In between, Knicks fans thought of the possibilities.
Now, with the Miami Heat up a commanding 2-0 lead, and interim coach Mike Woodson looking at another first-round exit, Knicks fans have penned in Phil Jackson as No. 1 on their offseason wish list.
Hope it’s erasable ink.
Phil Jackson won’t be fulfilling New Yorkers’ dynasty dreams. Well, at least for another year.
The Knicks went 16-6 with Woodson at the helm and 11-1 at home, wedging themselves into the seventh slot.
That sole loss was to the Miami Heat. The Knicks haven’t yet mustered the effort to beat them (0-5 this year).
But Woodson did beat just about everybody else important on the way to the postseason, from the higher-seeded Chicago Bulls, Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks to playoff berth contenders like the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks.
And Round 1 isn’t over yet.
What Woodson and the Knicks have going for them is Madison Square Garden.
New York is practically unbeatable on 7th Avenue.
The series returns to what will be a raucous environment. Fans want this game bad. They will be foaming at the mouth.
Couple that playoff atmosphere with New York’s typical at-home performance and there’s a recipe in there for some victories.
Injuries to Amar’e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert will hurt, though. Can you blame Mike Woodson if the Knicks get swept?
Win the first playoff game in 11 years, or two, though, and he’ll get some deserved credit. If he wins three, how could the Knicks not sign him? Win the series—yes not realistic, but let’s be thorough—and it’s a given.
One might say Mr. Jackson is a bit finicky. He chooses his teams (and players) well.
One year after becoming head coach of the Bulls, he, Jordan and Pippen won three titles in a row.
He took a year off after winning another three, then decided to pick right up where he left off, winning three in a row with Shaq and Kobe in L.A.
Does he feel the same way about Melo and STAT (and/or Chandler)?
Is the championship potential, probably the biggest lure for Jackson, there?
In the still-stacked Eastern Conference, Jackson might want to stick out another year in retirement until the door opens a bit more.
In a recent Sporting News interview, Scottie Pippen intimated it was inevitable Phil Jackson would coach again.
“I do see a lot of basketball left in Phil. He still has a great mind, a lot of knowledge… Hopefully we can see him back in the game in the next couple, three years, maybe next year.”
But, Pippen was stressing a longer timeline. Why? Jackson, 66, may not be up to the task at the moment:
I know for a fact he had some physical problems going on with him that he needed to take care of. He's under way with that right now, so hopefully his recovery and everything goes well.
What no one is stressing is Jackson may be out of bounds a little longer with a health issue.
The star of this Broadway show, the one who got the previous director fired, Carmelo Anthony, has spoken.
Does he want Mike Woodson back?
“Absolutely,” according to ESPN. “I'm a big supporter of what coach Woodson has done.”
And what about second in command Amar’e Stoudemire?
Newsday reported that STAT, too, gushed over the possibility of a Woodson return: “He's done a phenomenal, phenomenal job. I love his attitude. I love his coaching style. It would be nice.”