Kallas: Phil Jackson Coaching The Knicks? Keep Dreaming!
By Steve Kallas
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About the recent media frenzy about Phil Jackson coaching the Knicks: How many times have you heard “maybe Phil will come down to coach the Knicks if they are playing poorly” (impossible); “Phil’s the best man for the job” (not really – not with this roster anyway); “don’t rule out the possibility of Phil taking over the coaching if need be” (let’s be real).
HERE’S WHY JACKSON WON’T COACH THE KNICKS
The reality is, with 11 championship rings as a coach (and, yes, two more as a player during the Knicks glory days), Jackson has only won with stars and superstars. First, Jordan and Pippen (for six), then Shaq and Kobe (for three) and finally with Kobe, as the best player in the game, and then-star Pau Gasol — remember the walking double-double and great passer that he was back then, not the player he is now — for the final two championships, with incredible help from hard-to-match-up-with Lamar Odom, as well as great contributions from Derek Fisher, Andrew Bynum (at times) and, in the 11th championship, Ron Artest.
Jackson wouldn’t even think of coaching a team with maybe one superstar in Carmelo Anthony and, frankly, not that much else.
Why would he? It could only hurt his legacy. If he fails as a team executive, no big deal because he’s never done it before. If he fails as a coach of a not-very-talented team, well, then what Red Auerbach said for years and what others still say now would be proven to be true; that is, that Jackson could never win a championship without the best one or even two players in the game.
That’s not a legacy that Jackson would want to put on the line.
WHAT CAN PHIL REALLY DO?
Well, Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, etc. aren’t walking through that door anytime soon. In fact, the Knicks are pretty much hamstrung through next season. If Amar’e Stoudemire (an absurd $23.4 million) and Andrea Bargnani (an absurd $11.5 million) pick up their respective player options for next year (how could they not, since nobody will give them anything near those numbers if they opt out) and Carmelo decides to come back (for more money or not), the Knicks will be over the projected salary cap for next season.
To make it worse, they have no draft picks in the upcoming, two-round NBA draft.
So, what can Phil Jackson really do? The answer: very little. As he has stated, the Knicks can so some under-the-radar searching for somewhat helpful players who can improve the team. But that’s not going to win a championship. Stars and superstars win championships.
Jackson had arguably the two best, or at least two of the five best, players in the game for his first nine championships (Michael and Scottie for six, Shaq and Kobe for three). For his last two, he had the best player in the game (and a great two-way player at that in Kobe) and a rare combination of star (Gasol), clutch (Fisher) and unusual match-up (Odom, a superb sixth man) players.
How can he duplicate that, not for 2014-15 (can’t happen) but for 2015-16, because that’s what you’re really looking at?
Despite his many bashers, Melo had a great season, playing hard, playing hurt and playing with virtually no help the entire season (yes, he got some late-season help but it was too little, too late). While it says here that Carmelo can’t be the No. 1 guy in a two-superstar championship run, the Knicks should still try and keep him.
Because, if they don’t, aside from next year being a disaster, the Knicks will be two superstars away from a championship run, not one.
IF CARMELO WANTS TO WIN, WHY WOULD HE STAY?
Great question. Carmelo is already on record as saying, essentially, that he wants to stay but he also wants to win. That’s an inherent conflict for 2014-15. By virtue of no cap room, very few good players and no draft picks, Jackson will have to sell Carmelo on waiting at least one more year for a championship run. And even that’s unlikely.
If Carmelo really wants to win a championship, can he afford to, in essence, give up on 2014-15? That’s a tough choice. Plus, after giving a vote of confidence to Mike Woodson, Carmelo now has to deal with the fact that Jackson fired Woodson, a good man and a good NBA coach, and the rest of his coaching staff. Will Carmelo have any say in the new coach and will he want to go back to square one with a guy like Steve Kerr, a rookie head coach at any level, if Jackson decides to go that route?
Plus, will Carmelo thrive or die in the triangle?
These are all very difficult questions.
WOULD JACKSON EVER REALLY COACH THE KNICKS?
While the theme of this article is that he never will. No matter what these alleged “experts” are saying now, there is only one possible chance for Jackson to coach the Knicks. If Jackson could somehow draw superstars to the Knicks, especially guys with championship pedigrees, then he might return to the sidelines.
If, for example (and, no, don’t expect this to happen), LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh get bored in Miami and decide to opt out and come to New York (I know, I know, a virtual impossibility), then you might see Jackson on the sidelines. But even the “Big Three,” after this season, may be on the downside, especially due to Wade’s health. While this writer picked Miami to win it all over OKC before the season (and will stick with that pick now), the entire season for Miami has been about getting Wade healthy for the playoffs.
While it dawned on many early on that Kevin Durant was this year’s MVP (LeBron lovers often confuse Most Outstanding Player with Most Valuable Player), the real key to Miami’s success will be the health of Wade through the “second” season.
And, frankly, that’s a question mark.
So, unless Phil Jackson can make the Knicks a “loaded” team, a team that’s ready to win it all, he won’t even think of coaching.
And it says here that, in the next two seasons, that’s not going to happen.
And, yes, this is being written by a life-long New York Knicks fan, who, hopefully, will be proven wrong.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @NYSportsPlus
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