SAN ANTONIO — Phil Jackson’s about to embark on a journey perhaps far more difficult than stopping Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal from fighting, or ensuring high-volume shooting from Bryant and Michael Jordan don’t hinder team play.
Jackson will oversee the New York Knicks front office, trying to restore order in the same way he brought stability through his triangle offense and his Zen-like teachings. Such philosophies coupled with talented rosters ensured Jackson winning a record 11 NBA championships, including five with the Lakers. But how will that translate as an executive in which Jackson has lacked any previous experience?
“I’m happy for him. I’m sure the Knicks organization will benefit from his knowledge and his position,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said. “It’ll be interesting to see how involved and what kind of decisions he’ll make and what kind of relationship he’ll have with the coaching staff and the players. That’ something I look forward to talking to him so he can explain to me a little bit.”
Yes, there are plenty of uncertainties.
Will the meddling Knicks owner James Dolan give Jackson full autonomy to oversee the team’s personnel? Will Jackson play a large role in scouting, negotiating with agents and hiring future head coaches? Will he instill his triangle offense? Will his commanding presence be enough? After having testy relationships with the Bulls’ and Lakers’ respective front offices, will Jackson stand his ground enough without alienating the Knicks?
Lakers guard Jordan Farmar sometimes felt frustrated with Jackson’s triangle system, feeling that it disrupted his freedom during his four-year run in his first stint with the purple and gold (2006-2010). But as he played a key reserve role toward two NBA titles in 2009 and 2010, Farmar saw first hand how Jackson handled egos.
“I’m sure it will be great for him. He’s one of the greats in the game and he knows how to put together a team and manage individuals. He’s been successful in the NBA for a quite a while,” Farmar said. “He’s had a say in building a team and knowing what kind of players he likes and who he wants and what kind of style he’ll play. So I’m sure he’ll have an input on all aspects of basketball operations.”