Schmeelk: At End Of The Day, Knicks' Jackson Will Do What He Wants
By John Schmeelk
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Phil Jackson doesn't give a damn what anybody thinks about him or the way he is exercises his duties as Knicks president. There is no other way to explain the way he is approaching this head coach search.
Over the past two days, Jackson has tweeted photos from Iowa and Nebraska. ESPN's Ian Begley reported Thursday that "some involved in the Knicks coaching search have been informed that Phil is away right now." Marc Berman of the New York Post reported that Jackson is on his way home from Montana to collect his thoughts. Chris Neyenhouse of the Siouxland News was told by Phil's brother that he was being driven home to Idaho by Phil.
Whatever his reason for being in the Midwest, it's becoming more and more clear that Phil is on the road in the middle of a process that will lead to one of the most important decisions of his Knicks tenure. No other executive in Jackson's position would go on a vacation at this time of year.
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Now, is it possible that Phil is working his butt off while traveling? Sure. Could he be watching the playoffs obsessively while scouting potential coaching candidates and future free agents? Yeah. But it doesn't seem that way does it? The optics stink.
The coaching search has not reflected well on Jackson. It started by refusing to talk to obviously qualified candidates like Tom Thibodeau, Scott Brooks, and Kenny Atkinson and stating he would only interview people "he knows." Then he had to walk back reports (likely leaked by other people in the Knicks organization) that he had a phone call with Luke Walton to avoid tampering charges.
According to most media reports, the only two candidates he has talked to have been David Blatt and Kurt Rambis.
Just to confuse things a bit more, Frank Vogel became available on Thursday, and Jackson is in the middle of Nebraska on some kind of trip. Can he do a phone interview with him from there? Sure. But if you were Vogel, would you rather take the Knicks job after a phone interview from a guy on a trip in the middle of a coaching search, or from a (hypothetical) team like the Rockets who bring you in to interview you face to face, wine and dine you, and really show they want you?
Likewise, if you are Blatt, and you are offered the Kings or Pacers job, do you take it or wait for Jackson to get back from vacation and decide if he wants to hire you?
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Or maybe Jackson just wants Rambis, and is simply waiting for the Knicks' season ticket deadline to pass in two days to make the announcement. The implications of behaving like that are self-explanatory.
To Jackson's credit, he just doesn't care what anybody thinks. I honestly don't believe he has been behind one leak or rumor in regards to the coaching search. He doesn't say anything to anyone that talks. He believes in his way of doing things so much that he will move forward with it no matter how bad it all appears. His condescending answers at his season-ending press conference were a look behind the curtain of what he thinks of popular opinion of not only fans but those that cover the NBA for a living.
Media reports and fan opinions don't control his actions and in the long run that's a good thing. You can act like that but you have to win. Right now the Knicks' coaching search is a bit of a running joke among fans and even those that cover the league for a living. The idea that any team would consider, let alone hire, Rambis over the other available candidates is generally considered absurd and incompetent. Nothing would make Jackson happier than to prove all those critics wrong and win his way.
Does James Dolan see the criticism the same way? Is he cool with the fact that the national media treats his franchise and the way his president is going about hiring a new coach as a joke? Is he cool with hiring Rambis? How patient is he going to be when the guy he puts in charge of the franchise is on vacation when there are important discussions to have about a potential candidate like Vogel? Dolan's past suggest he does care, especially when it comes to his fans.
There's no evidence right now that suggests Dolan has any interest in moving on from Jackson this offseason. But Jackson is putting himself in a position where he has to get this right. He already failed on his first coach hire, and with the way this search is being performed he will not be given a third chance.
With Jackson's unorthodox search and methods, it makes it even more important for him to get it right. Considering the Knicks' talent and the free agent class this year, winning next year is not going to be easy. How patient will Dolan be? How will Jackson's methods affect his patience?
Only time will tell.
For everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk
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