Phil Jackson’s Ego Would Not Let Him See the Fruition of His Creation
Philip Douglas Jackson is one of the greatest basketball minds to ever grace the sport. This man won 11 championship rings. He was responsible for turning players like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal from superstars to sports legends. His famed, treasured triangle offense could be seen as the one of the precursors to the “pace and space” offense we see today. There’s no question that his legacy as a coach and basketball genius will live on long after he leaves this world.
Sadly, that legacy will also include how he nearly destroyed the New York Knicks.
Recently the club has been on a tear, winning their last six of eight games after starting out the season 0–3. Kristaps Porzingis is evolving into an NBA superstar in our very eyes. Frank Ntilikina is showing promise in his development as the future point guard for the team. Even if the Knicks don’t make it to the playoffs, they finally have control of their first round picks from here on out after constantly trading them for so long.
There’s no question Phil Jackson has put the organization in a good position to succeed for the immediate future. Unfortunately, he’s not around to take the credit due to being removed from the President of Basketball Operations over the past summer.
While the “Phil Jackson Truthers” want to tell Knicks fans that he’s responsible for their recent success , they also seem to forget that his arrogance and massive ego also nearly destroyed the process that we’re seeing right now. For starters, Jackson was going to trade Porzingis due to him skipping the exit meeting with the organization.
“We’re listening but we’re not intrigued yet at this level,” Jackson told MSG. “ As much as we love this guy, we have to do what’s best for the club.”
What’s best for the club or what’s best for Phil? While what Porzingis did was not wise and very disrespectful to the organization, there’s no justification to justify bringing back Derrick Rose when he left the team to fly to Chicago without telling anyone his whereabouts.
It’s even worse that the player Jackson tried to trade Porzingis for was rumored to be Devin Booker and current Suns forward Josh Jackson.
Although Booker is a solid shooting guard and Josh Jackson could emerge as an effective rotational player, athletes like Porzingis come once in a lifetime. He’s called “The Unicorn” for a reason folks.
Porzingis didn’t show up for the exit meeting due to being tired of the dysfunction of the team and the constant disrespect to his then big brother mentor, Carmelo Anthony.
It also didn’t help that the team was constantly forced to adhere to Jackson’s precious triangle offense despite the fact that the players could not become accustomed to the schemes. It was made even worse by assistant coach Kurt Rambis’ poor defensive plans that constantly changed during the season that led to more confusion.
“The team started the season running an offense that de-emphasized triangle sets,” said ESPN New York Knicks beat writer Ian Begley, “but the club began to run triangle sets more frequently after the All-Star break. The Knicks also changed defensive schemes multiple times under associate head coach Kurt Rambis.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Jackson meddled into the affairs of the head coach. He did the same thing to Derek Fisher during his tenure as head coach of the Knicks. Fisher wanted a more uptempo offense that used the triangle for spacing purposes but Jackson vehemently disagreed and it led to a struggle between the two and Fisher’s eventual firing. Fisher went into great detail in a Bleacher Report article earlier this year.
“One of the challenges for all of us was we were in the basketball department under the umbrella of Phil Jackson and who he was and who he is and what he was able to do as coach and leader,” Fisher said. “Then [when you’re] asking me as a head coach in a sense not to create the same results, but take the same system or way of playing and try and teach these guys how to play it — and utilize it in similar ways as when he taught it — I think at times it was more challenging for our players to really understand ‘who am I committing myself to? Who am I selling myself to? Who am I running through the brick wall for?’ ”
Players were not fond of the offense yet Jackson continuously tried to force it upon them. There was no sense of order or freedom. Being a part of the Knicks felt more like a chore than an experience.
“ It was a tough year,” Porzingis told radio personality Mike Francesca on his show WFAN’s Mike’s On. “ We won a lot of games in the beginning because of our talent. I could tell right away it wasn’t going to keep that up for the whole season. It started to go downhill, it wasn’t fun anymore. It was not a very enjoyable season.”
Jackson was someone who prided himself on control. That’s what he had in Chicago with the Bulls. That’s what he had with in Los Angeles with the Lakers. It was his way or the highway and he had the personnel and the cache to do what he wanted. Being in New York’s front office put Jackson in unfamilair territory and he didn’t know how to handle it. Some have tried to credit Jackson for picking the talent and believe that the Knicks’ history of dysfunction led to his firing but fans and journalists have contured that argument several times.
Jackson’s firing also allowed Porzingis the freedom to play the game that tailors to his game as opposed to neutering it.
“ Greg Monroe and Okafor were linked with the Knicks because of Phil Jackson’s predilection for post play,” said Jason Concepcion in an article for the Ringer. “Now Phil’s gone, and Kristaps is taking nearly a quarter of his shots in the post, converting at an elite 1.03 points-per-possession clip.”
If Phil Jackson had just focused on player development and building team chemistry instead of vindicating his own legacy he would still be here monitoring the team’s progress and receiving credit for the work he’s done. Instead, he can only watch from afar realizing that he will never get the respect for creating a foundation for a future winning team.
*credit to Bleacher Report, NY Post, The Ringer, Sports Illustrated, Newsday, and Yahoo Sports