Widely regarded as the greatest coach in NBA history, with 11 titles to his name with MJ’s Bulls in the 90’s and Kobe’s Lakers in the 00’s, Phil Jackson’s NBA status is nothing short of legendary. Throughout his tenure as coach of two of the greatest dynasties in league history, Jackson remained an ever constant subject through both glory and despair, with his teams enjoying shining victories and humiliating defeats. His ever watchful, compassionate presence was to players as a father is to a son. Caring, nurturing and understanding whilst always ensuring lessons were being learned every day. Jackson’s success, as he claims, doesn’t stem simply from talent, but from the ability to connect with the people around him on a level unseen to the outside world. This why his nickname, The Zen Master, is synonymous with who he really is. A believer in accepting and understanding your surrounds, and not just focusing on oneself.
This is Phil’s pursuit of success and happiness, and one he’s been able to pass down to several of the NBA’s greatest ever players throughout the years.
Phil’s journey since leaving the Lakers in 2011 has been a rocky one. Dealing with his own illness, while being by his fiance Jeanie Buss’ side throughout her dear father, Dr Jerry Buss’ sickness and eventual death, and a potential new contract with the Lakers which for reasons largely unknown fell apart at the last minute. After retiring from NBA coaching, it’s hard to imagine Phil would’ve been subjected to the drama he’s seen since being swept by the eventual Champion Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 Playoffs. Yet here he is. Not only a celebrity in his own right, but still a very much sought after asset for every team in the NBA. A part of Phil must relish the spotlight, and one team has created a new opportunity for him to be a part of it. The team with which he began his NBA journey. The New York Knicks.
It has been written to death for a week now, by a thousand NBA writers, that the Knicks have extended a big offer to Phil Jackson which they are hoping will help propel them into the next era of New York basketball, and provide them with a new lease on life. It’s no secret that the biggest market in the NBA has been one of the great disappointments in the league for many years, with millions of fans being let down year after year because of poor decisions and bad financial management. Now more than ever, with a new team across the river in Brooklyn, it is important for the Knicks to start becoming a regular threat in the playoffs. No one is scared of the Knickerbockers, and they haven’t been for a long time. Can Phil Jackson change that fact? It’s a long shot, but one most Knick fans would agree is a chance they are willing to take. With several bad contracts on the books, no draft picks and a disgruntled superstar’s free agency looming, things are looking grim for the immediate future of this franchise.
What Jackson will do is encourage stars to sign with the Knicks in the future. It’s a well documented fact that he’s a fan of superstars, as they are him, and as it stands, there is little the Knicks have to garner the attention of players that they want to sign. The Carmelo Anthony factor is a big one for the Knicks, and now that the trade deadline has passed, they are banking on his re-signing come free agency. Should Jackson take the job, it will go a long way in helping ensure his signature stays in Manhattan. Be it the right move or not it is what the Knicks, and their fans, desperately want.
Jackson seemingly is ready to make his move and re-enter the NBA stratosphere. After the failed attempt to get back to coaching during last season’s tumultuous events in Los Angeles, it was expected he would resign to the fact he would never coach in the NBA again, even putting a fork in it himself at one stage. The decision by the Lakers to hire former Suns/Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni angered many involved with the Lakers including fans, players and even a Buss herself. Jeanie has since explained her distaste at her brother Jim’s decision to hire D’Antoni over Phil, but speculation also continues to circle that it was indeed her late father Jerry who decided against re-hiring Jackson. It’s neither here nor there, and the truth will probably never be known. All we do know, is that Phil Jackson was ready to coach the Los Angeles Lakers last season, and was snubbed. One could argue that snub not only upset Phil (he would argue it didn’t), but also motivated him even more.
Since the Knicks first extended an offer, the stories have been running rampant about whether Phil will indeed accept the job, or fall by the wayside once again. It has been said that Jackson wants full control of basketball decisions. It’s also been written that he wants to coach too. All this along with a huge asking price. Speculation of course, but similar terms were said to be in play during negotiations with the Lakers a little over a year ago. Whatever the price, you can be sure the Knicks would be happy to entertain him until he gives them an answer. Would Phil be successful in a front office role? It’s hard to say, but he was influential in the hiring of the now fired Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks last off season, after he extended his hand to the Pistons in the decision making process. Hardly a lynchpin by which to judge his future successes or failures, but an interesting point nonetheless.
Phil’s interest in the NBA since retiring is indicative of his everlasting love of the game, and an example of how hard it can be to let go. Wise move or not, Phil Jackson wants back in the NBA, and the Knicks are providing him with that opportunity. Whether he takes it or not, is a whole other story. Can his attitude towards basketball and life in general be an asset to the struggling Knicks, or will it make no difference at all? These questions are worth pondering, and you can be sure Jackson will be doing just that, but the simple fact he is even considering it tells us all we need to know. The Zen Master is ready to make his return. Which team is lucky enough to accommodate it, remains to be seen.
As mentioned earlier, Phil Jackson’s view on life and all it holds is incredibly important to him, and in turn the decision making process. You can be sure that his eventual reconciliation will not only revolve around himself, but also his family, his friends, the players he’ll work with, colleagues and probably even the weather. Being in touch with who he is, and surrounding himself with who and what he needs to be successful is probably the most difficult aspect of any choice he eventually makes.
We’ll keep you updated with any developments.