Reports surfaced from Frank Isola this morning, claiming that Phil Jackson and James Dolan weren’t seeing eye-to-eye in Jackson’s cleanse of the New York Knicks’ front office. Jackson recently fired Mike Woodson and the rest of his coaching staff, but rumors soon emerged that Dolan was trying to convince Jackson to rehire long-time Knicks mainstay Herb Williams.
According to Isola’s source, the two were also clashing over Jackson’s attempts to clean house, likely involving the attempts to get rid of Steve Mills, Mark Warkentein and Allan Houston. The latter two have remained in the Knicks’ front office for the last several years, all three have CAA connections, and none of them have noticeably contributed to the Knicks’ growth in recent years.
So, the question begs asking: does Jackson really have full control of the Knicks’ basketball decisions? After all, Dolan claimed to “willingly and gratefully” cede control of basketball decisions to Jackson upon the hiring and announcement of Jackson’s signing.
Jackson spoke with media today and seemed to reiterate that everything is fine.
Those seem like good things on the surface, surely. However, in these situations, it’s always helpful to think of the opposite scenario. Would Jackson, who embraced a five-year, $60-million contract to work with the Knicks, really say “No, Dolan isn’t giving me full control”? Just a month into his contract, facing one of the biggest summers the franchise has seen as they try to hold on to Carmelo Anthony? Probably not.
The whole dispute walks a very fine line, though. Jackson is supposed to be in control of “basketball operations.” He fired the Knicks’ coaching staff — seemingly — without much resistance. That’s a basketball decision. Firing front office members like (potentially) Mills, Warkentein, and Houston, however, is debatable. Those guys help with basketball decisions, but do they pertain to “basketball operations”? Questionable. These men are long-time friends and associates of Dolan — could he just be loyal to them? Does Jackson have the right to come in and rid the organization of all of these men within less than two months?
Jackson’s comments today also touched on the coaching search — he may take his time, he wants the triangle, he has some candidates — Iman Shumpert’s future role, Carmelo Anthony’s future… all basketball things. He does seem to be in control of those things, as his title suggests. It’s possible that by trying to restructure the front office, however, that Jackson overstretched his boundaries.
Time will tell, but this offseason — in just a couple of days — is already shaping up to be an interesting one.