It’s been nearly two years since Phil Jackson was named President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks. Since Jackson took on the role in March 2014, it’s been an endless disappointment with little success.
When it started, it seemed like a dream come true. Jackson came to New York with an impressive resume of 11 championships. Technically 13 if you count the two he won when he wore the blue and orange back in the 1970s. So, Phil Jackson was returning to where it all started. Jackson arrived when the 2013-2014 season was nearly over, so his involvement made a minor impact and unfortunately the team failed to reach the postseason. Knicks fans knew that Jackson wouldn’t build a team in a few months time. It would take a season or two to get the ball rolling.
This season, things weren’t much better. Though the team improved with 15 more wins than last year, but the direction the team is currently heading in isn’t anywhere near winning a championship. Patience is an important virtue to have, but in New York, there’s a limit before it runs out. It’s been over 40 years since the Knicks have won a championship and 17 years since they’ve reached the Finals. The path Jackson has taken is a long one with many unanswered questions and many of his decisions are already being labeled as mistakes.
The following are the top 12 mistakes Phil Jackson has made as Knicks Team President.
12. Keeping Thanasis Antetokounmpo in the D-League
When Jackson took over the Knicks, they had missed the playoffs with a record of (37-45). What made matters even worse was they had no first or second round draft picks.
On June 24th, Jackson made his first big move as President by trading Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler to the Dallas Mavericks for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert and draft picks.
The Knicks selected Thanasis Antetokounmpo with the 51st overall pick. The prospect spent his entire first season (and most of his second) in the D-Leauge where he averaged 12.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.4 block sper game.
11. Giving Carmelo a Max Contract
It was no secret that Carmelo Anthony wanted to explore his options when free agency began in Summer 2014. When other suitors like the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets failed to meet his demands, there was one place left to turn.
But maybe they should’ve let him walk. While he’s still a gifted scorer, he’s been fighting injuries for the last two years and has scoring numbers have trended downwards. Now, they’ll need to give nearly $25 million a year to an aging star on a roster that’s nowhere near competing for a title.
10. Undervaluing Jerian Grant and Langston Galloway
Before Jackson arrived, the Knicks were one of the oldest teams in the league. To fix this, Jackson brought up Langston Galloway from the D-Leauge. Galloway’s hustle was instantly noticed by fans, as he constantly kept coming up with steals and making big shots. To go even younger, Jackson traded Tim Hardaway Jr. for the draft rights to point guard Jerian Grant.
In the games Grant played this season, his confidence was remarkable. He was making plays a 10 year veteran made, but as a rookie. After the season ended, Jackson said the aged and injury ridden Calderon was the right fit at point guard instead of the flourishing Grant.
It’s not wise to write off Galloway and Grant, as when their eligible, they’ll gladly leave as free agents.
9. Trading for Jose Calderon
Though Jose Calderon was the reason the Knicks drafted Cleanthony Early and Thanasis Antetokounmpo, there were plenty of other point guards the Knicks could have gone after.
The Detroit Pistons had expressed interest in dealing point guard Brandon Jennings but the Knicks passed up on the offer. In the time Calderon has been on the Knicks, he’s been more hurt than healthy. When healthy, Calderon’s production hasn’t been stellar either, as he’s averaged just over 10 points per game and commits a senseless amount of turnovers.
8. Continually Referring to 11 Championships
Who wouldn’t want Jackson as a part of their organization? The guy has won more championships than most people can dream of. However, since taking control of the team in March of 2014, the Knicks aren’t anywhere close to accomplishing their goal of winning a championship.
In a recent interview after the season, when he was asked about his process of hiring a coach he just replied, “Do you have 11 championships?” The condescending remark led to NBA Analyst Rachel Nichols to say “I don’t have 11 championships, but I do have two eyes.”
Comments like this from Jackson just anger Knicks fans. 11 rings or not, fans want results!
7. Giving Arron Afflalo a Second Year Option
The 2015 free agency period didn’t lead to as big of a spending spree as Jackson would have hoped for. On July 9th, Jackson made the team’s first move of the offseason by signing Arron Afflalo to a two year deal worth $16 million. The second year of the contract was a player option worth $8 million.
Afflalo didn’t have a terrible season, averaging just over 12 points per game; though it was a setback from his days playing with the Denver Nuggets, where he averaged more than 15 points a night.
Afflalo will most likely stay in New York and collect his remaining $8 million. This may prohibit Jackson from acquiring other free agents due to the salary restrictions the team is currently under.
6. Giving Derrick Williams a Second Year Option
The Knicks had some cap space left at the end of free agency and used it to sign veteran forward Derrick Williams. Williams, who was the former second overall pick in the 2011 draft, has yet to find a team where he can consistently produce.
Jackson signed Williams to a two-year $8.8 million dollar contract with the hopes that he’d revive his career in NY. Early on, Williams lit up the highlight real, as he soared through the air to make acrobatic dunks and hustled to grab rebounds.
Though Williams had a decent year, he will more than likely stay in NY for more playing time and a chance at a larger contract down the road. Jackson should have given Williams a one year deal, instead of a two year obligation the team will have to fulfill.
5. Hiring Derek Fisher
It wasn’t a surprise that Phil Jackson would want his own coach to run his coveted “Triangle Offense.” He would want to bring in someone he could trust and who wouldn’t give him any trouble.
When Jackson was coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, he put a lot of trust in point guard Derek Fisher to run the offense. So, it wasn’t shocking that he wanted him as a head coach when he took over as Knicks President.
Fisher came with no experience coaching and often made lineup mistakes, mismatching players against opposing teams. This led to the Knicks worst regular season record in franchise history at 17-65. They let him continue as coach until halfway into the 2015-2016 season, when Jackson fired Fisher as the team had a record of 23-31.
4. Pushing Triangle Offense
Phil Jackson’s 11 championships were achieved by running his coveted triangle offense. When he hired Derek Fisher it was believed he would implement the offense while coaching the team.
The team has been exposed to the triangle offense for over two seasons and, so far, it hasn’t done a thing. It’s absolutely time to drop the triangle. The Knicks don’t have the personnel and the fans are beginning to lose faith.
3. Keeping Kurt Rambis
Derek Fisher was relieved of his coaching duties with 28 games remaining in the regular season. A new coach wasn’t going to be given control of the team overnight, but it was important to make use of the remaining games the team had left.
Jackson decided to use associate head coach Kurt Rambis as interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Rambis had a horrendous track record as a head coach. From 2009-2011, he coached the Minnesota Timberwolves where he finished with a record of 32-132. Rambis finished the season with the Knicks with a record of (9-19) and the team failed to reach the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
2. Only Interviewing People He Knows For The Head Coaching Job
After missing the playoffs for a third consecutive season and after revitalizing the roster in the offseason, it’s definitely time for a coaching change. When Fisher was fired, one name that was constantly being thrown around was Tom Thibodeau. Thibodeau coached the Chicago Bulls for five seasons and led them into the playoffs further each year.
Jackson put a rest to the rumors of Thibodeau coming to New York by stating he’s only interviewing people he knows to coach the team. This basically means he wants a coach who will continue to run his sham of an offense on a team that isn’t buying in.
Some names that have surfaced as frontrunners for the position include Luke Walton, Brian Shaw, Kurt Rambis (again) and David Blatt.
1. Firing Mike Woodson
The biggest mistake that Jackson has made was firing Mike Woodson. Woodson had a proven track record as a coach. In the six years he coached the Atlanta Hawks, they had an improved record each year and went farther into the playoffs every season.
Giving Woodson the axe meant the Knicks would have to start all over. This happened over two years ago and Jackson is still trying to find the right direction to take the team in.
Woodson’s time with the Knicks was excellent. He led the team to the playoffs two of the three years as coach, won a division championship, produced a Sixth Man of the Year and advanced to the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals.
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