It’s going to take the New York Knicks a long time to rebound from Phil Jackson’s reign—but the potential is finally in place for a proper rebuild if both the ownership and the fans can be patient.
That’s the assessment of Sports Illustrated in an in-depth analysis of how one of the most respected coaching minds in NBA history could have ended up fired as Knicks president in the early hours of Wednesday morning, just three years into a five-year, $60 million contract.
Certainly the 71-year-old’s health issues were not what the doctor ordered and left questions as to how committed he could be to a full-time job—particularly with reports of him falling asleep during draft workouts. But his fixation on both the Triangle offense and alienating the team’s two best players, Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis, was even more baffling.
What cost Jackson his job, however, was that he failed in his biggest responsibility: being a filter to keep the media away from owner James Dolan as a culprit for the Knicks’ long-running woes. Once the press kept blaming the owner for keeping Jackson in charge when the team was so clearly in free fall, the insulation was gone and it was just a matter of time, according to S.I.
Whomever takes the job next has got their work cut out for them. There are a number of bad contracts, particularly Joakim Noah. But the Knicks now have a young star to build around in Porzingis and better draft picks after years of mortgaging the future with questionable trades.