NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In the end, the bickering proved to be too much.
In a somewhat stunning move, the Knicks announced Wednesday that they have parted ways with team president Phil Jackson. The decision comes in the wake of turmoil involving stars Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis.
“After careful thought and consideration, we mutually agreed that the Knicks will be going in a different direction,” owner James Dolan said in a statement. “Phil Jackson is one of the most celebrated and successful individuals in the history of the NBA. His legacy in the game of basketball is unmatched. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the Knicks as both a player and an executive.
“While we are currently evaluating how best to move forward regarding the leadership of the organization, I will not be involved in the operation of the team,” Dolan continued. “Steve Mills, the team’s general manager, will run the day-to-day business of the organization over the short term. Tim Leiweke, who brings tremendous expertise and experience in sports franchise management from both Toronto and Los Angeles and is our partner in the Oak View Group, will advise and work with Steve on an interim basis to help develop a go-forward plan.”
Jackson, who had two years and $24 million left on his contract, struggled to push the franchise in a new direction, going 80-166 in his first three years at the helm.
“The New York Knicks will always hold a special place in my heart,” Jackson said. “This team and this town launched my NBA career. I will forever be indebted to them. I am grateful to Mr. Dolan for giving me the opportunity to return here.
“I had hoped, of course, to bring another NBA championship to the Garden,” Jackson added. “As someone who treasures winning, I am deeply disappointed that we weren’t able to do that. New York fans deserve nothing less. I wish them and the Knicks organization all the best — today and always.”
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Knicks are targeting Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri to take over as team president.
Dolan vowed back in February to see Jackson’s contract “all the way to the end.” But when internal strife gets to be too much, even the most steadfast of pledges are hard to honor.
The Knicks were basically at war with Anthony, and wanted desperately to get him off the roster. Back in mid-April, Jackson said the veteran swingman would be “better off somewhere else.”
“We have not been able to win with him on the court at this time, and I think the direction with our team is that he is a player that will be better off somewhere else and using his talents somewhere where he can win or chase that championship,” Jackson said. “Right now, we need players that are really active, can play every single play, defensively and offensively. It’s really important for us.”
According to reports, Anthony isn’t too keen on waiving his no-trade clause and the Knicks are very much against buying out the remaining the two years and $54 million on the forward’s contract.
The Knicks are coming off a 31-51 season that started off encouraging enough, with wins in 12 of their first 21 games.
But things went off the rails from there and Jackson found himself continually embroiled in controversy due to his problems with his star player and his loyalty to the triangle, an offense that is considered archaic by many of today’s players and basketball insiders.
While it’s true Jackson found tremendous success using the triangle while head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, winning 11 championships, it had become increasingly clear that very few, besides Jackson, himself, thought the offense could work in New York.
In recent weeks, Jackson found himself butting heads with the Knicks’ other star, Porzingis.
The issues started when the Latvian big man skipped an end-of-the-season exit interview due to frustration over the team’s direction. The situation only intensified from there and reached a breaking point during the hours leading up to last week’s NBA Draft, as Jackson said he was listening to offers from other clubs to acquire Porzingis, one of the brightest young talents in the league.
He explained his rationale to MSG Network.
“The future, you know, what it brings. Does it bring us two starters and a draft pick or something that’s even beyond that? [That’s] something we have to look at as far as going down the road. We know what he is. He’s a unicorn and he’s special,” Jackson said.
In the end, Jackson held on to Porzingis, but there was no indication that the rift between the two was remedied.
Last week, Jackson urged Knicks fans to have faith in him.
“I think we know what we’re doing. That’s what I can say to them,” he said at the draft. “Although it’s not been apparent in our record the last couple of years. ”
Donning a Knicks hat and backpack, David Miranda, of Queens, was celebrating Jackson’s departure outside Madison Square Garden on Wednesday. He told WCBS 880’s Mike Smeltz initially he was optimistic when Jackson took over the team.
“I loved him, I believe him. I was all for that whole believing Phil thing,” he said. “Then he kept making dumb decisions, little by little I was like, I need to let it go.”
Miranda said he started to lose faith when Jackson insisted the team run the triangle offense, and his frustrations grew amid the feud with Anthony and trade rumors about Porzingis.
“That was horrible. I think if that actually went through, he would have been run out of New York anyway,” he said.
“Best news I’ve heard in a long time,” a young man said. “Overjoyed man, this is a long time coming for all Knicks fans.
“It’s about time,” his friend added.
“It’s time for a change. That’s it,” another man said.
“We thought he would have done better,” one woman said.