Chatelain: Jackson's Arrogance Is Damaging His Legacy And The Knicks
By Ryan Chatelain
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It's getting excruciating to watch as Phil Jackson deals blow after blow to his legacy.
With 11 world titles as a coach, Jackson is an NBA legend. That fact is cemented. But had his last official business in the league been a second-round playoff loss to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in 2011, he would have walked away with a clean career biography, with practically no significant negatives or criticisms worth mentioning.
Sure, some have dared to argue that Jackson benefited from having teams carried by superstars such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. But when you have more rings than fingers, you are exempt from having to argue your case to delusional skeptics.
However, since Jackson came to New York in 2014 as the Knicks' president, the only thing he has successfully built is an ever-growing blemish on his career.
Does anyone remember the consensus opinion of Isiah Thomas before he took over the Knicks? Great player, likable, a winner.
What's the opinion of him now in New York after he bombed as an executive and coach here? A joke, clueless, someone whose number should be blocked on James Dolan's cellphone.
Jackson appears to be headed for a similar fate.
Sure, the opinions of Thomas and Jackson are more tarnished in Gotham than elsewhere, but let's not forget this is the media capital, meaning a bad rep here has far more reach than in a place like Indianapolis or Orlando.
The "Zen Master" has always done things his own way, both on and off the court, and as a coach, he was considered quirky yet charming because his methods worked. He reached the NBA Finals an absolutely ridiculous 13 times in 20 seasons. That type of success tends to foster an ego.
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While Jackson is every bit justified in feeling cocky about his coaching, as an unproven executive, that ego has become a wrecking ball to both his own legacy and the Knicks' title aspirations.
Jackson put his arrogance on full display last month when he was asked about critics who say he should scrap his beloved triangle offense because it was costing the Knicks a shot at the top available coaches.
"Who are these people?" he asked reporters. "Do they have 11 championships?"
That would be a fair argument if Jackson was the coach of the Knicks. But he's not. And isn't Phil Jackson the executive essentially insulting Phil Jackson the coach when he implies that any ol' coach can win running his triangle? Was there nothing special about Jackson's practice regimen, in-game management and motivational skills? Was it really all about the Xs and Os?
If simply coaching the triangle is so easy, why is the Jackson coaching tree filled with rotting branches? Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright, Frank Hamblen, Brian Shaw and Kurt Rambis have all been unmitigated disasters as head coaches.
But the triangle is just one of many problems with Jackson's tenure as team president, none bigger than his laughable, nearly monthlong coaching search -- if it even is that.
He didn't give Tom Thibodeau or Mark Jackson a sniff. He insists he didn't offer the job to Luke Walton. At this point, it's only clear that Rambis and former Cavaliers coach David Blatt are in the running.
Maybe Jackson will prove to have legitimate interest in former Pacers coach Frank Vogel. Knicks general manager Steve Mills reportedly inquired about Vogel's interest in the job last week, but with one important caveat: It wasn't yet clear where Jackson stood on Vogel.
Of course, the Knicks' front office was not acting as one cohesive unit because its leader, instead of examining the pros and cons of a potential Vogel hire in a Manhattan boardroom, was at his lake house in Montana.
Carmelo Anthony has been publicly voicing his dismay at how Jackson is handling this search -- and who can blame him?
"I just want to see the proper procedure gone through, the proper process," he told Complex.com last week. "We give everybody a shot to come in and say what they have to say and see if you like that person or not."
You'd better believe soon-to-be free agents are making note of how things are being run in New York -- and seeing the team's president split town when he should be focused on hiring a coach doesn't exactly scream that a turnaround is imminent.
It'll be interesting to see if Jackson makes a legitimate attempt to hire Vogel. If he doesn't, it will prove that he doesn't want a coach with a proven track record who might actually have his own ideas about how to win games and who might challenge Jackson's views from time to time.
If that coach were to question his boss, he can expect to be greeted with a swift "Do you have 11 championships?"
Of course, Jackson can avoid such awkward exchanges by hiring a yes man. That might explain why last time around he offered the job to Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher, former players of his who had no NBA coaching experience.
If Jackson wants a marionette, he likely needs to find someone who is in awe of his resume -- and fortunately for Knicks fans, there are reports that suggest Vogel, a former Lakers scout under Jackson, might fall into the category.
But the Knicks had better act fast because the longer Jackson runs the Knicks, the more damage he does to that resume and the more his fraternity of admirers shrinks. If he ultimately dismisses Vogel as a candidate, you might as well close that fraternity's New York chapter for good.
And considering all of Jackson's past glory, that would be pretty darn sad.
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