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Friday, July 07, 2017

New York State of Mind, Part VI

The New York Knicks fired team President Phil Jackson on June 28 in the wake of a disastrous three season run that produced an 80-166 regular season record, no playoff appearances and a series of bizarre decisions. Jackson, who won a record 11 NBA titles as the head coach of the Bulls and Lakers, is arguably the greatest basketball coach ever but his dismal failure with the Knicks demonstrates that success in one role in a given field of endeavor is no guarantee of success in another role in that field. Jackson never fully committed to doing what it takes to be a successful NBA executive, which is one reason that I predicted that Phil Jackson's tenure in New York would not end well.

Running a franchise is a full-time job, not something to be dallied with in between trips to Montana and California. The very personality traits and philosophies that contributed to Jackson's coaching triumphs set him up to fail as an executive. Jackson's greatest skill is the ability to motivate and organize a group of players to sacrifice individual glory for team success and to understand--in a famous Kipling line that Jackson often quoted--"The strength of the Pack is the Wolf and the Strength of the Wolf is the Pack." Jackson thrived when he could work with players directly and connect with them as individuals. An executive's role is much different; an executive must be more detached than the coach and must make tough decisions about a player's objective value. An executive also must work tirelessly to assemble information about all available talent pools: free agency, the draft, overseas prospects, etc.

Jackson failed to get rid of Carmelo Anthony and then he compounded the problem by diminishing Anthony's value (and New York's leverage, both with Anthony and with potential Anthony suitors) by publicly criticizing him. Jackson's handling of the Anthony situation--the single most important matter that he dealt with during his tenure with the Knicks--is baffling. Jackson's public comments about Anthony are, for the most part, accurate: Anthony is a ball-stopper, he is not a great leader, he does not have enough commitment to defense. I assumed that, for those very reasons, Jackson would get rid of Anthony as soon as possible but instead Jackson not only re-signed Anthony but he granted him a no-trade clause. It is very unlikely that Anthony will ever be the best player on a championship team--and at this stage of his career he probably would not even be the second best player on a championship team. It is mystifying that Jackson apparently understood this and yet still tied the fate of his executive career to the heavy anchor of Anthony's inability/unwillingness to lead a team to an elite level.

Perhaps James Dolan insisted that Jackson build around Anthony and so Jackson figured that he would do the best that he could, before realizing that this simply would not work. The Knicks are a dysfunctional franchise under Dolan and they will remain a dysfunctional franchise until Dolan either sells the team or stops trying to micromanage the basketball operations.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:48 AM



At Saturday, September 23, 2017 4:09:00 PM, Blogger Keith said...

"It is very unlikely that Anthony will ever be the best player on a championship team--and at this stage of his career he probably would not even be the second best player on a championship team."

He just became the third best player for a contending team. Time to see if that's a role he can fill.


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