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Phil Jackson On WFAN: Knicks Need Mental, Spiritual Makeover

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NEW YORK (WFAN) – There’s a reason they call him the Zen Master.

Phil Jackson knows his No. 1 priority as president of the New York Knicks is to put a winning product on the court. To that end, he plans on molding the mental state of his players.

And that includes guard J.R. Smith, who Jackson described Wednesday on WFAN’s “Boomer & Carton” show as “a talent that sometimes gets in his own way.”

“I think that I bring a path that has used calmness, focus — meditation, in fact,” Jackson said. “(The) mind controlling situations.”

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The Knicks have been on the back pages quite a few times this season, though not for many good reasons. First there was Smith’s suspension for violating the NBA’s anti-drug program. He was later fined for pulling pranks against opponents during games and couldn’t contain his feelings when his brother was cut by the team. Then came guard Raymond Felton’s arrest last month on gun charges.

The 68-year-old Hall of Famer, whose 13 titles include 11 as a coach, believes a new mindset could make a big difference in a place like Manhattan.

“It could be a help to a franchise like this,” Jackson said. “(I’m) not going to be coaching the team, obviously. I’m going to give the coach authority and autonomy. But I think it’s something that I can use, that I’ve used in the past, to do things that will increase not only the physical abilities of this group; I think there’s definitely some things that have to be done in the physical area, the mental and the spiritual aspect of it.

“It’s not hard to see those things helping a team bond together. New York is a difficult place to do that. And I understand the New York syndrome.”

Jackson cited many outside factors that could distract a player: friends, media and the city itself.

“We want to close that circle and really make it really pretty tight, so that we can start to get that familial attitude that brings bonds together, that makes players kind of play for each other,” he said.

Jackson was introduced by the Knicks on Tuesday and will have total control over all basketball decisions, according to team owner James Dolan, who promised this time to stay out of the way.

“It’s interesting. I think just the focus in the last week or so has improved this team’s play,” Jackson said. “I don’t think I have anything to do with it. But I think it’s the focus that’s on the team and the pressure that they are under to play well.”

The Knicks are riding a six-game winning streak and are still in the hunt for the eight and final playoff spot despite a 27-40 record.

Jackson also discussed with Boomer & Carton the team’s plans for Carmelo Anthony, his health and whether he was disappointed not to land a job in Los Angeles, where his fiance serves as president of the Lakers.

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