So Jackson fired Derek Fisher as New York Knicks head coach on Monday morning in an effort to get the foundation of his business model right—and give the teaching opportunity to another of his disciples: Kurt Rambis.
Rambis has a real opportunity in New York, no matter his negative image from bombing as the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves from 2009-11.
And what an epic stage this Knicks job is.
Rambis is one of Jackson's closest friends in the world, for one.
Jackson also knows that Rambis knows how to coach. The two of them have had private discussions about what the Knicks weren't getting from Fisher, a coaching newbie who struggled to find a voice other than former player/leader.
Fisher, 41, didn't practice this unproven group long or hard enough, didn't teach or stress enough defense and didn't know how to inspire players after they grew desensitized to his speech-making skills.
Fisher sketchily leaving the team during training camp and getting into an altercation with Matt Barnes over a woman Fisher reportedly was dating—and misleading team officials in the process—also shook the trust and communication that Jackson wanted as lynchpins of his Knicks leadership group.
It didn't get Fisher fired, but Jackson went into this hoping for a glowing mentor relationship with an open exchange of ideas and grounded in real honesty. Jackson probably undermined that some himself by trying to be respectfully hands-off so Fisher was secure in his job, but Fisher clearly didn't bring an open learner's mind to this and warm Jackson's heart either.
Fisher has undeniable leadership skills, but Jackson just didn't see sufficient growth in his coaching skills—an area where Jackson is perhaps the foremost expert in the world.
So here is the much-maligned Rambis, presumed by the masses to be nothing more than a bespectacled seat-warmer for someone the way he actually was for Jackson with the Lakers in 1999.
In the years since, though, Rambis has made Jackson a true believer in how well Rambis knows the game—and the philosophies about the game that made Jackson great. The question is whether Rambis has the leadership skills to make it all apply.
Rambis, who turns 58 later this month, went 32-132 as Timberwolves coach. It was so horrible that he fell off the radar even for recycled head coaches.
The quirky Rambis failed to convey any sense of command while in Minnesota, but looking back on the people's help he most needed is interesting.
Then-general manager David Kahn has been revealed to be the ultimate clown of sports executives in the way he tried to justify drafting Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry or Wesley Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins—or all the failed moves after those.
Kevin Love, the top player Rambis couldn't bond with, has shown to be lacking in the intangibles that make a good team leader or even No. 1 superstar.
Rambis, though, still carries stigma from that disaster to the point that people overlook his success as Pat Riley's player, Jackson's assistant and even someone willing to go learn as Mike D'Antoni's assistant with the Lakers in 2013-14.
There's a reason Jackson made Rambis one of the highest-paid associate head coaches in the NBA to help Fisher.
Everyone's assumption is that Jackson is a sage with a grand plan and he's not an interim-thinking guy. Well, his motto has always been to stay in the moment—and that's his plan here.
Give Rambis a chance to earn the job if he can reach the players, win the winnable games Fisher left on the table and maybe rally the Knicks from five games out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
If not, then maybe Luke Walton (not at all an East Coast guy, though) or Brian Shaw (an immediate option as a Rambis assistant, actually) become stronger considerations. Tom Thibodeau, a proven excellent coach, is less of an option because of his lack of relationship with Jackson.
Fisher was a rising son in Jackson's basketball family, but Jackson had to be honest with himself when he didn't see Fisher's ego shrinking properly to move from heralded politician to simple teacher.
The formerly .500 Knicks' listless play for chunks of the past 10 games showed Jackson that the players needed someone sharper technically—even just in having a stabler rotation to get them to know their roles and play together better.
LeBron James Nails a Clutch 3-Pointer to Tie the Game vs. Spurs
Eleven Years Ago Today, Kobe Bryant Dropped 81 Points on the Raptors
Greg Anthony's Starting 5: Top 5 Question Marks at the Halfway Point
Howard Beck and Ric Bucher's 1st-Half Disappointments
KD Has His Best Game of the Season vs. Thunder
Was the NBA Right or Wrong to Reduce Fan Influence on All-Star Starters?
Who Should Star in the Remake of 'White Men Can’t Jump'?
The Greek Freak vs. the Beard: Harden and Giannis Face Off in Houston
Allen Iverson Will Reportedly Coach Former NBA Stars in 3-on-3 Tournament
Mr. December: See John Wall Once Again End the Year as NBA's Player of the Month
Greg Anthony's Starting 5: the Top 5 Trade Targets in the NBA
Jordan Clarkson Fouls Goran Dragic & James Johnson Isn't Having It
Top 3 Landing Spots If the Chicago Bulls Move All-Star Jimmy Butler
Giannis vs. Porzingis: Battle of the International Unicorns
James Harden vs. Russell Westbrook: Who's the Real MVP?
Ric Bucher's NBA Power Rankings: New Year Sees a New Team at #1
Bucher Buzz: the Reason the Hawks Are Likely to Trade Paul Millsap and Others
Bucher Buzz: League Sources Say Bulls Have Begun Shopping Jimmy Butler
Who Will Grab the 8th Seed in the Western Conference?
Howard Beck Predicts the NBA All-Star Teams in Each Conference
Is Rondo's Relationship with the Bulls Beyond Repair?
What's Wrong with the New York Knicks?
Greg Anthony's Starting 5: Who Has the Most to Prove in 2017?
James Harden Connects with Montrezl Harrell with the Between-the-Legs Dime
Jrue Holiday Dunks on Kristaps Porzingis
Isaiah Thomas Scores Career High 52 Points Versus the Miami Heat
Tommy Heinsohn Goes Nuts After Isaiah Thomas Scores His 50th Point
Giannis Antetokounmpo Blocks the Two-Time Slam Dunk Champ
Doc and Austin Rivers Receive 1st-Half Ejections Against the Houston Rockets
Lopez Does a Double Clothesline
Clutch Under Pressure: MVP Steph Curry Steps Up with the Game on the Line
Greg Anthony's Starting 5: the NBA's Best Ball-Handlers
Kevin Durant Is an Assassin: the Former MVP Leads the NBA's Best Superteam
Tim Duncan Ends His Speech with Some Jokes
Coach Gregg Popovich Fights Off the Feelings During His Speech
Rest in Peace, Craig Sager: Paying Tribute to a Legendary NBA Sideline Reporter
James Harden Is an Assassin: the Beard Makes His Case for NBA MVP
Howard Beck's NBA Awards at the Quarter-Mark of the Season
DeMarcus Cousins Trade Rumors: Is the All-Star Center 'Damaged Goods'?
Is the Phil Jackson/Carmelo Anthony Feud Being Blown Out of Proportion?
Clutch Curry: Is Steph the Master of Late-Game Heroics?
Greg Anthony's Starting 5: the NBA's Biggest Underperformers So Far
Russell Westbrook Gets His 7th Straight Triple-Double
Sam Dekker Posterizes Enes Kanter
Cleveland Cavaliers Rick Roll'd
Ric Bucher's NBA Power Rankings
LeBron vs. Melo: the Rivalry Continues Between Superstar Friends
Can VR Save DeAndre Jordan's Free-Throw Percentage?
Klay Thompson Career High 60 Points
Greg Anthony's Starting 5: The NBA's Best Duos
LeBron vs. Wade: Legendary Heat Teammates Face Off in Hometown Clash
Ric Bucher's NBA Power Rankings: for the 5th Straight Week There's a New #1
The NBA's Early Season Contenders and Pretenders
The Top Plays from the 1st Month of the 2016-17 NBA Season
Just How Much Will the Knicks Regret Joakim Noah's Monster Contract?
Averaging a Triple-Double, Is the MVP Now Russell Westbrook's to Lose?
Will Anyone Challenge the Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference's #1 Seed?
Is It Time for Panic or Patience in Minnesota for the Struggling Timberwolves?
Greg Anthony's Starting 5: the NBA's Top Defensive Teams
Andrew Wiggins Unloads Monster 1-Handed Dunk on Warriors' JaVale McGee
Jackson believes in Rambis' ability in that area. "I have complete confidence in his ability to coach this team," he said at a press conference Monday.
Starting immediately, Rambis will also work more hands-on with prized prospect Kristaps Porzingis. Rambis' strength is teaching big men, and he has had a major role in center Robin Lopez's better-than-expected work for the Knicks.
Yet more than a change in Porzingis or jump-starting a hobbled Carmelo Anthony (sore knee), Jackson is in search of something simpler: a group of guys eager to play hard and play the right way.
Always embracing the idea of being a contrarian, and too respectful of the profession to want a coaching carousel with his team, the deeply loyal Jackson would love it if Rambis could rise from the dregs of the coaching business to steal the show on Broadway.
Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @KevinDing.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!