With much of the discussion since former New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni resigning his position with the team on Wednesday, now starting to focus on the feasibility of former Los Angeles Lakers bench boss Phil Jackson becoming the Knicks head coach for next season; it brought back to mind a column I wrote on August 9, 2011. The first part of the scenario has come to pass; we will find out in the coming weeks and months whether Jackson will end up with team he used to play for.
The New York Knicks over the years have been given far more prestige by the national media than has been warranted by what they have done on the hardwood. The last time the team won an NBA Title was back in the early seventies, during the days of Walt Frazier and Willis Reed; yet the media portrays them as one of the premier franchises in the Association, which is far from the truth.
Truth be told, the two tent-poles of the NBA are the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, and there are no other teams that have come close to matching their accomplishments. However since the Knicks last won an NBA Championship, multiple titles have been won by Chicago, Detroit, San Antonio and Houston. Two former expansion teams the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have each won the NBA Finals in the last decade while New York has not even been close to winning one.
None of this seems to matter to the national media, or the reporters who cover the team out of New York City, as when ever the name of a big time Free Agent comes up, the Knicks are always mentioned as a probable destination. Last summer many reporters had LeBron James as a lock to sign a deal with New York, even though the chances of that happening were between slim and none. The Knicks however, were able to vastly improve their team this past season, as they signed Amar’e Stoudemire as a Free Agent and then picked up Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups in a trade with the Denver Nuggets.
Knicks head coach Mike D’Antoni has just one more season left on his current contract and the speculation has already started about whether the team will re-sign him or if they will decide that a new voice is needed in the locker room. D’Antoni reportedly is looking for a defensive minded assistant coach, as defense has never been one of his strong points as a coach. Former Atlanta Hawks head coach Mike Woodson, reportedly is a candidate for the position.
Alan Hahn who covers the Knicks for “Newsday” mentioned the fact that some NBA observers feel that if the Knicks hire Woodson, than D’Antoni would constantly be looking over his shoulder making sure that his new assistant was not trying to take his job away. Hahn writes “Some suggest Woodson, who had some success with the Atlanta Hawks, would be a bit of a threat to D’Antoni. But, in all honesty, no one will cast a greater shadow over D’Antoni through the coming year than Phil Jackson.”
Do not dismiss this as just a pie-in-the-sky fantasy; this scenario truly does make sense! Jackson played for the Knicks from 1967-1978, and was a member of the team from New York the last time they won a Championship in 1973. After being stuck in the basement of the Association for an eternity, the team made the Playoffs this past season and the future looks very bright. Could James Dolan entice Jackson out of retirement with the prospect of bringing a Championship to the team he used to play for?
There are very few mountains for Phil Jackson to still climb after winning six NBA Titles with the Bulls and five with the Lakers. However, this scenario just might intrigue him, after taking a year off to re-charge the batteries. To restore the Knicks to glory may be the perfect way for Jackson to end his NBA career.