SAN ANTONIO — Will the “We want Phil” chants now stop? Or will they just grow louder?
Whatever the case, Phil Jackson isn’t walking through that door to restore the Lakers back to a storied franchise. Instead, he will oversee the New York Knicks’ front office.
Will Jackson’s departure provide some relief for Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni?
“Nah,” D’Antoni said abruptly.
Moments earlier, D’Antoni spoke highly of the coach many Lakers fans wished had replaced Mike Brown after he was fired five games into last season. Instead the Lakers hired D’Antoni, who has become wildly unpopular amid the Lakers’ persistent losing and injury-riddled rosters.
“It’s a good move,” said D’Antoni, who coached the Knicks from 2008 to 2012. “He obviously is a knowledgeable basketball guy. They need that right now.”
The Knicks sure do.
They’ve become a laughing stock of the NBA, a once accomplished organization riddled by bad contracts, a lack of supporting cast around Carmelo Anthony and a meddling owner in James Dolan. But plenty of Laker fans had hoped Jackson could become a savior for the organization after winning five of his 11 NBA titles in two separate stints as the team’s head coach.
But the Lakers passed him over last November in favor of D’Antoni five games into the season following Mike Brown’s firing. Jackson, who is engaged to Lakers president Jeanie Buss, has become an unofficial consultant with the Lakers. But he has had minimal influence and hasn’t spoken to vice president of player personnel Jim Buss since the Lakers interviewed Jackson.
So instead, Jackson will join the organization he once played for as a key bench reserve that won two NBA championships in the 1970’s. Despite Jackson’s basketball resume, however, he lacks front office experience. There’s also concerns how much autonomy the micro-managing Dolan will give him.
But the Knicks are hoping Jackson could attract potential free agents and bring more structure to an organization that has lacked it.
“He has a hell of a mind,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “Being a coach, it’s sort of a pain in the [rear]. He’s a smart guy.”
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