Zen Master of MSG

Phil Jackson has returned to basketball. After a brief hiatus – during which he never stepped out of his pajamas – he’s become the Knicks’ president of basketball operations. Jackson signed a 5-year contract that’ll pay him $12 million annually. Jackson held his press conference today at Madison Square and he talked about many things including his time with the Bulls and his interactions with the owner and his GM Jerry Krause. Jackson talked about the deal during the 1988 NBA draft that sent Charles Oakley to New York in exchange for Bill Cartwright.

During his Chicago Era Jackson won six NBA Championships including two three-peats that were separated by a year. During the second run of Jackson’s titles he clearly molded the team that he wanted around the duo of Jordan and Pippen. Jackson wasn’t just a great coach but he had a good grasp of player personnel and got the most from them.

In order for Jackson to win his 12th NBA title as either a player or coach or GM, he will have a lot of work to do. The Knicks are a complete mess and don’t have quite the star power that Jackson had in his previous stints. In LA, Jackson had a star-laden team with the likes of Shaq and Kobe who were in their primes. Jackson had a tremendous cast surrounding them in Robert Horry, Derek Fisher and Rick Fox who were mainstays on the three championships in the same way that Kukoc, Rodman and Longley were in Chicago.

The knock on Jackson is that he always went to a made situation that couldn’t fail. Chicago was on the cusp of greatness in the early 90’s and with the maturation of Jordan came the expected championships. After the Celtics and Lakers dynasties of the 80’s ended, there was a huge void in the NBA and Michael Jordan filled it. Phil Jackson never won a title without Michael Jordan putting a sorta black cloud over his resumé. In LA much the same could be said as in 2004 the Los Angeles Lakers bulked up with hall of famers galore only to get destroyed by the upstart Detroit Pistons in 5 games. This series is still seen as one of the biggest flops in NBA history.

Jackson will probably find his Knicks as unfixable. Carmelo Anthony will take the max deal to stay in New York but he is far from being a championship piece like Jordan or Shaq. New York’s income taxes are the highest in the country and to attract free agents you’re going to need more than Phil Jackson as the face of the franchise. As long as Lebron, Wade and Bosh reside in Miami this is tough row to hoe. Expect a great publicity stunt to keep Carmelo but it’s not going to make a bit of difference in the grand scheme of things. For billionaire owner James Dolan, he’s allowed to spend his money anyway he sees fit, but this move may just be for pomp and circumstance and not real results.