By Grant Hill
With almost three seasons as Knicks president under his belt, things aren’t seeming as ‘zen’ as everyone thought they would be back when Phil Jackson was hired in 2014.
At first, the hiring of Jackson seemed like the answer the Knicks needed: an 11-time NBA champion coach, revered as a basketball genius, coming to bring stability and a winning culture to a franchise in turmoil—cue the confetti.
The fact that he had no experience as an executive was brushed under the table. Jackson was a basketball savant who mastered playing and coaching, so it was assumed that he would have this job in the bag. More than halfway through his Knicks tenure, the tides have turned, and that executive inexperience has fully reared its ugly head.
Jackson’s hiring came on the eve of a planned protest outside of Madison Square Garden by fans who were enraged by the state and direction of the franchise. Bringing him in was an attempt by loathed team owner James Dolan to save face and turn the page. Truth be told, the Knicks seem to be in a worse situation now than before Jackson came aboard.
The job he has done thus far has been anything but pretty. Many have criticized everything from the signings he’s made, the trades he’s made, the questionable hirings, his feuds with both current and former Knicks and NBA players, his cryptic tweets and the overall drama that has shadowed his presidency.
Stephen A. Smith, an outspoken critic of Jackson as Knicks president, believes that Jackson, in fact, wants to get fired. Smith, on ESPN’s “First Take,” went as far as to say that the highly-criticized decisions made by Jackson can be seen as an attempt to “sabotage” his position as president in an effort to be done with the job while still securing the rest of the money on his contract.
However, James Dolan has no intention of firing Jackson. He stated on ESPN’s “The Michael Kay Show” that he is going to let Jackson continue as president throughout his contract, which, if he doesn’t exercise the opt-out clause after this season, will be two more years.
According to Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding, not only does Jackson fully intend to finish the two years, but he also could be looking to re-sign with the team in 2019.
Through all the bad decisions and negative news coverage, it is hard to find a diamond in the rough when it comes to Jackson’s executive accomplishments. Every year he has gone through a crop of new players, promising a playoff caliber team, only to end with failed season after failed season.
However, there is one aspect of Jackson’s reign that Knicks fans should be grateful for; in fact they should be praising him for keeping the team’s draft picks.
Knicks fans are not strangers to the devastating effects that trading away future draft picks can have on a franchise. For over 20 years, the Knicks have had a propensity for doing exactly that.
They have, time and time again, made questionable trades that see a haul of future draft picks disappear within a blink of an eye. In return, they have received overrated, “big-name” players who fall short of expectations while they watch as their abandoned picks turn into some of the league’s best players. Some notable examples are the Eddy Curry trade, the Marbury Mega-Deal and, more recently, the Andrea Bargnani trade.
Phil Jackson has seemingly learned from the results of previous mistakes made by former Knicks executives in his position, who held onto any and all draft picks. He understands the value and importance of drafts pick, and what they can do in terms of building a successful franchise.
In spite of the call for Jackson’s head due to the questionable actions and numerous mistakes he has made, the man deserves some credit. Holding onto the teams current and future draft picks is one of his redeemable moments.