After several days of folks saying it was "close" and this afternoon's press release stating that the Knicks would make a "major announcement" Tuesday morning, I see sourced reports from both Scott Cacciola of the Times and USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt saying a deal is done. And this:
Phil Jackson formally signed a contract to be Knicks president after a lunch meeting Friday with team officials, @RamonaShelburne reports.— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) March 14, 2014
Even I am willing to accept this as a real thing that's happening.
This is a beginning. In a way, the Knicks got their guy. In a bigger way, they got the guy who'll get the guys, and that's where questions emerge. Jackson, though he will reportedly make $12 million per year (of Dolan's money, not the Knicks'), is expected to live only part-time in New York and to leave the hands-on stuff to his subordinates. So:
- Who runs Phil Jackson's Knicks? Who negotiates with agents, makes trades, signs players, drafts players, and so forth? Reports suggest Steve Mills could stick around, but in what role? And what becomes of the rest of the front office, including a CAA guy like Mark Warkentien? If Jackson adds or replaces people, to whom will he look? What positions need filling? What will the interview process be like to fill those positions? How much will this new front office value analytics? Will they aim to improve immediately, or concentrate on longer-term goals?
- Who coaches Phil Jackson's Knicks? Mike Woodson says he wants a sit-down to make his case to Jackson, but there's rampant speculation he'll be replaced this offseason. By whom? Will it be one of Jackson's former assistants or players?Will that person be expected to run Jackson's Triangle Offense? Is it customary to capitalize "Triangle Offense"?
- Does Phil Jackson want to do drugs with me?
- What of Carmelo Anthony? The whole roster comes into question with new leadership, and Melo comes first.
- And the big one: Will James Dolan stay out of the way? Dolan and/or the Dolan-enabled friends at CAA are reported to have undermined the decision-making of previous lead executives. Is Jackson immune to that treatment? Will Dolan let him move freely? Speak freely? I suspect Philip wouldn't be signing on if he didn't feel that way, but will it last?
I'm not looking for answers now, just fleshing out the uncertainty that begins today. Some of these things were going to be questions no matter what, but now every single aspect of the Knicks is up in the air. And that's good! The Knicks are in horrible shape. Everything should be up in the air, and now there will be fresh faces dictating how things settle. The worst that comes of this is the Knicks end up with a broken front office, a bad coach, and an incongruous, inflexible roster overseen by a meddlesome owner. So, no change.
I've been frustrated by this story since it emerged because it struck me as another turn of the Knicks' savior-baiting when simple, more methodical solutions would have sufficed. As Jackson's preferred role has been clarified, I've come to understand that this is about whom Jackson trusts, not just who he is. He is not the solution, he is the one tasked with finding those solutions.
If Jackson is genuinely permitted to take over and if he then uses that control wisely, that's as close to saving Dolan's Knicks as anyone can get. I regard those as two massive, crucial "ifs" spanning the difference between catastrophe and success, and I don't feel completely confident about them. But shit, maybe I'm so jaded with the Knicks' longtime savior complex that I can't recognize when the real savior arrives. Let's go.
Update (9:05 PM):
I'm told Jackson's deal with the Knicks is for five years and does not include an ownership stake.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) March 15, 2014