The New York Knicks have been searching for a leader to get the franchise moving back toward championship contention. They decided on Phil Jackson, a 13-time NBA champion (including two with the Knicks) between his time as a player and a coach, as the best person for the job.
The Knicks drafted Jackson in the 1967 NBA draft. He went on to play for the New Jersey Nets late in his career before moving to coaching, where he made his biggest imprint on the game. He enjoyed unmatched success during his time with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
Now he returns to where it all started, with the Knicks as the team's president. Peter Botte of the New York Daily News passed along comments from Carmelo Anthony, who said he's willing to do whatever it takes under Jackson to help the team win:
The big picture, absolutely, for the big picture this is definitely more attractive.
I'm willing to do whatever. As long as it's gonna put me in a situation to win, I'm willing to do whatever. I'm not sold or stuck on my play. What I've been able to do these past 10-11 years has gotten me to where I am right now.
If Phil wants to come in and change that this late in my career, if it's going to help me out to win a championship, I'm with it.
Let's check out some of the highlights from Jackson's first press conference in his new role with the Knicks and some of the social media reaction to his return to New York.
Darren Rovell of ESPN snapped a shot from outside Madison Square Garden, where the marquee welcomed Jackson home after a long and winding basketball journey:
Sign outside Madison Square Garden this morning pic.twitter.com/aNjOUm0qkF— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) March 18, 2014
Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated noted there were around 600 people in attendance for Jackson's return press conference. It showcases not only the high interest level in the Knicks, but also the legendary coach's appeal:
I'd guess about 600 people here for Phil Jackson presser, from media to MSG support staff to guests.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) March 18, 2014
Knicks owner James Dolan said the decision to add Jackson to the organization is a no-brainer, regardless of the surrounding circumstances, as quoted by Ken Berger of CBS Sports:
Dolan: "Regardless of your record, when you have a chance to get Phil Jackson to run your team, you do it."— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) March 18, 2014
Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN New York noted Dolan made a point to drive home the fact that Jackson would be the point man for all basketball decisions as president:
Dolan says Phil is in charge of "ALL basketball decisions." He stressed "all"— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) March 18, 2014
As for the style of basketball Knicks fans should expect once Jackson gets an opportunity to shape the roster in his vision, Berger said he expects to keep the ball-movement approach:
Phil stresses importance of a ball-movement approach. "I believe in system basketball."— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) March 18, 2014
The New York media complicates what promises to already be a Herculean task. As Deitsch notes, the Zen Master doesn't seem worried about that aspect of his new job:
Phil Jackson to New York media: "We're going to have an open relationship -- and a good one."— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) March 18, 2014
Albert Breer of the NFL Network said the applause during Jackson's introduction came off a bit weird. The earlier note about more people than simply media being there could help explain that, though:
Press conferences where there's clapping always seem awkward to me.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 18, 2014
Chris Dempsey of The Denver Post was intrigued by Jackson's opening remarks, which laid out his plan for how the team was going to move forward:
Well if I was a Knicks fan, listening to Phil J right now would give me nothing but hope for big things. Opening statement was inspiring.— Chris Dempsey (@dempseypost) March 18, 2014
The future of head coach Mike Woodson was a key topic during the press conference. Youngmisuk reported Jackson said those discussions would continue during the offseason:
Phil says he will have discussions with Woodson after season moving forward about coaching job.— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) March 18, 2014
Bleacher Report's Howard Beck covered another key topic: exactly how the relationship between Dolan and Jackson would work. The longtime head coach said they sorted that out during discussions a couple months ago:
Phil makes it clear: he wasn't coming to NY without assurance of autonomy from Dolan. Had that discussion in January.— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) March 18, 2014
The Knicks last won an NBA championship in 1973, and they haven't been to the NBA Finals since 1999. The desire to get back to that level is the reason the franchise wanted Jackson back in the fold, this time as an executive.
Neil Best of Newsday provided the 68-year-old president's thoughts on what a title would mean:
"It would be a capstone on a remarkable career that I've had." - Phil Jackson on winning a title in New York.— Neil Best (@sportswatch) March 18, 2014
Al Iannazzone of Newsday noted Jackson said he was tracking the team throughout the season and hopes it can finish the regular season on a high note after a frustrating campaign:
Phil said he's been watching the team since Tyson got hurt in November to see how they recovered. .... Hoping they end on a high note.— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) March 18, 2014
Another notable moment came when Dolan admitted he's not a basketball expert, as passed along by Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal. That seems to indicate he's ready to let Jackson and general manager Steve Mills lead the way:
Dolan, on letting go of some control: "The two gentlemen to my left are experts in basketball. I am not an expert at basketball."— Chris Herring (@HerringWSJ) March 18, 2014
Mark Carman of The Game 87.7 in Chicago captured Jackson's praise of former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause. He hopes to follow that blueprint for success:
Phil: "Jerry Krause his attitude toward doing the job I'm in charge of doing is kind of the map for me going forward. He was very thorough"— Mark Carman (@thecarm) March 18, 2014
In terms of the coaching situation, Chris Sheridan of SheridanHoops.com got the feeling that how the team finishes this season will decide Woodson's fate:
Jackson expects #Knicks to make playoffs, and it sounded as though Mike Woodson's future with team depends on whether that happens.— Chris Sheridan (@sheridanhoops) March 18, 2014
Jackson also made it clear he wasn't planning to coach again, according to Sheridan:
Interesting that the process started in mid-December, and Dolan first approached Jackson about coaching the team. But Phil won't coach again— Chris Sheridan (@sheridanhoops) March 18, 2014
Looking ahead, Jackson is already pinpointing the summer of 2015 as a turning-point opportunity for the franchise, as Iannazzone pointed out:
Phil said 2015 is a big summer for the Knicks, of course.— Al Iannazzone (@Al_Iannazzone) March 18, 2014
Will the Knicks win a title with Jackson as president?
All told, the Knicks are in good hands. Even though Jackson won't have the same type of hands-on approach as he did during his time with the Bulls and Lakers, he seems to have a developing vision for getting the team back on track.
He also doesn't seem overly concerned about what could end up being a daunting task depending on Carmelo's free-agent future, the team's lack of draft picks and what type of players the team can attract. Jackson appears ready to put in the hard work that will be necessary over the next few years.
If he can get the Knicks back in the title picture, it would be another major accomplishment in an already extraordinary career.