Phil Jackson Reportedly May Offer to Coach Knicks at Home in 2016-17

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks to reporters during a news conference in Greenburgh, N.Y., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Derek Fisher was fired as New York Knicks coach Monday, with his team having lost five straight and nine of 10 to fall well back in the Eastern Conference playoff race. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Seth Wenig/Associated Press

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson may not have coached his final NBA game.

According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com on Monday, Jackson could split games on the Knicks bench with interim head coach Kurt Rambis during the 2016-17 campaign.

"There's even talk Jackson could offer to coach home games next season, with Rambis coaching the road games," Shelburne reported Monday. "It's an offer the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss once flatly rejected, but it could be an interesting compromise to hiring Rambis as the head coach next season."

Knicks star Carmelo Anthony is not on board with the proposition. 

"Nah, nah, nah. I don't think that should be accepted," Anthony said, per Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. "I wouldn't accept that if that was the case."

Jackson took over as the Knicks president in March 2014, and the fans in Madison Square Garden are still waiting for the turnaround on the court.

New York went 37-45 in 2013-14 (with many of the losses coming before Jackson was on board) and 17-65 in 2014-15. The 2014-15 effort was the worst season in franchise history, which only left room for improvement in 2015-16.

The Knicks have shown some of that improvement with a 28-40 record, but they are still headed to another playoff-less spring.

With the recent losing serving as a backdrop, Shelburne noted Jackson is feeling more urgency as his out clause with the team following the 2016-17 season approaches.

One of the problems for the franchise is instability at the coaching position. Jackson hired a former player, Derek Fisher, to man the position and "be the vessel who articulated Jackson's vision to the Knicks' players," per Shelburne.

However, there were communication problems between the two, and Jackson fired Fisher on Feb. 8 as the team faltered on the court. He then named his "trusted longtime lead associate head coach Kurt Rambis to take the helm in the interim in the hopes his message would get through."

Shelburne noted Jackson has been traveling with the team more since Rambis took over and has even offered his thoughts at times. According to Shelburne, the former Chicago Bulls and Lakers coach has also lost 20 of the 30 pounds he had gained after taking the Knicks job and now has more energy.

With improved health on his side and the reportedly solid communication with Rambis, it may seem like a natural next step to coach some home games next season. However, Shelburne mentioned other factors at play.

For one, Golden State Warriors assistant coach Luke Walton looked capable of leading a team when he directed the defending champions to a 39-4 record while head coach Steve Kerr recovered from back surgery. Walton could be a candidate to take over the Knicks job, but Shelburne pointed out he may not be in a hurry to leave Golden State and could coach the Lakers instead if they fire Byron Scott.

Shelburne also touched on the speculation that Jackson could eventually return to Los Angeles and work for his fiancee, Jeanie Buss: "Sources close to both Jackson and the Lakers insist that's unlikely. He likes his life in New York."

On Tuesday, Bleacher Report's Howard Beck reported a theory he's hearing around the league that the Lakers will keep head coach Scott for one more year, "just in case [Jackson] opts out [of his contract with New York] and returns to L.A. and wants to pick the coach. 

Beck reiterated "it's just a theory" and there's "no indication that [Jackson] has any inclination to leave [the] Knicks, or return to L.A. to run [the] Lakers."

Jackson is 70 years old and will be 71 at the start of the 2016-17 season, but it appears as though he'll be back on the sideline if Walton stays in Golden State (or takes over in Los Angeles) and Rambis is back to coach road games.

That may be the spark the Knicks need in their rebuilding efforts, considering Chris Walder of The Score reported Jackson "owns the highest winning percentage (.704) of any coach with at least 200 games under their belt."

Here is a look at Jackson's head coaching resume, per Basketball-Reference.com:

Phil Jackson's Head Coaching Career
TeamSeasonsRegular-Season RecordW/L PercentageChampionships
Chicago Bulls9545-193.7386
Los Angeles Lakers11610-292.6765

Jackson boasts 11 NBA titles on that resume (six with the Bulls and five with the Lakers), including six in a row from the 1995-96 season to the 2001-02 season (though he sat out for the 1998-99 season). He also won the Western Conference two additional times with the Lakers in 2003-04 and 2007-08 and has played a major role in the stories of some of the greatest players of all time.

Some fans try to diminish Jackson's accomplishments because his titles came with legendary players such as Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, but the Black Mamba had a response for them, per ESPN:

ESPN @espn

Kobe has some thoughts on the notion that Phil Jackson only won so many championships because he had great players. https://t.co/LOwMXvHaM0

Jackson may not have a championship roster in New York, but players such as Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis are far from qualifying as the scrubs Bryant described.

It is impossible to argue with Jackson's resume, and he boasts extensive experience working with superstars. That would likely help him coach Anthony and the budding playmaker Porzingis as the Knicks attempt to make the postseason next year for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign.


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