Is It Time to Doubt Phil Jackson Yet?

Updated: January 8, 2015

Photo by Keith Allison

While the Zen Master has too many rings for his fingers (2 as a player and 11 as coach) it’s getting increasingly clear that he won’t add to the collection with the Knicks. Phil Jackson just arrived as president of the Knicks about five minutes ago with a five-year, $60M contract. We know NY is a fast town but is it too soon to judge how this is going?

Fairness and prudence would say it’s too early, the guy’s in the early stages of rebuilding and the real action starts next offseason. On the other hand he has no history as an NBA exec for reference so we can only go by what we’ve seen. Besides, now that it looks like a total rebuild and the Garden is a horror show, we’ve got plenty of time on our hands to speculate.


On a fantasy tangent…let’s say you buy a house that clearly needs renovation…you make a plan and get started on the work…but as you get into it you realize it’s rotten to the foundation and is in fact a tear-down. You can start over but now it’s going to take longer and cost more, and the bank wonders if you know what you’re doing.

This is precisely where we are 10 months into the Phil era. We would have guessed there’d be growing pains for Phil with contracts, making trades, etc. But the areas where you’d hope his prior experience would be valuable would be in things like team assessment, player evaluation, and who fits in with Big Chief Triangle.

By the end of this week’s housecleaning it’s not to early to say Phil has failed miserably with his early assessment in these areas. In jettisoning J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Samuel Dalembert, Phil has recognized the obvious and signaled the house is being torn down.

When he arrived the talk was of a middle-of-the-pack team in need of some help and he proceeded accordingly. He re-signed Carmelo Anthony and traded Tyson Chandler for an aging Jose Calderon in hopes of competing. So he invested all this money in the renovation project and now that the house is being torn down, what do you do with these fancy gadgets that won’t go with the new house? Even if you’re a Carmelo fan he is clearly on the back nine of his career and won’t be a good soldier while waiting for help. And Calderon won’t be easy to move.

The Phil defender would say, “maybe Phil’s hands were tied by Jim Dolan from doing what had to be done before the season”. It’s always easy to point the finger at Dolan but in this case it’s hard to swallow. In the preseason you’re expecting to be a playoff team and three months later the owner now capitulates? No, this sounds like Phil has been fully in charge and massively erred in his assessment of the situation.

Photo by Keith Allison

If he’d torn down the house to start with, he could’ve let Carmelo walk, and traded Chandler for some young talent/draft picks that might be around for rebuilding. Instead he’s hamstrung the club further and delayed the day when the Knicks might be competitive. Learning on the job has already proven to be expensive.

The hope at this point would be the Zen Master can use all this newly created cap space to lure potential free agents to play at MSG (a.k.a., the Mecca) over the next two offseasons. A few problems with that strategy:

  1. The “Mecca of Basketball” is a fiction created by NY sportswriters for NY fans.
  2. It’s doubtful Phil holds much sway with today’s young stars.
  3. Smaller markets have gotten more popular with young talent.
  4. The smart clubs are assembling deep teams through the draft and foreign-bred talent.

Is it premature to judge the Phil regime as a failure?…possibly. But clearly we can stipulate, the first 10 months is a bigger disaster…in every way…than virtually any scenario a Knick hater could have envisioned.

The early speculation was that Phil would lose interest in commuting from the LA beaches and would never complete the 5-year contract. It now seems within two years it’ll be painfully obvious the plan is not working, Phil will become another overpaid consultant to Jim Dolan and we’ll be on to another Dolan plan.

Now back to the fantasy tangent…I know it would be an odd pairing but do you think Jim Dolan and Woody Johnson ever sit down and talk about regime change over a beer? Just wondering…

Jan 10: Further to this post,  Phil Jackson addressed this subject with a mea culpa but failed to say what went wrong in his assessment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Get Big Dog Sports' latest news, features, and more info delivered to your inbox!
  • Fresh perspective on the latest sports news
  • Big picture sports discussion
  • Informed analysis on controversial topics

Enter your email and stay on top of things,