I’m not buying it, not for a second.
I‘m not buying into any characterization of Phil Jackson’s recent HBO interview that claims he had no interest in the formerly vacant New York Knickerbockers head coaching position. The “Real Sports” conversation is scheduled to be aired on 6-19.
By highlighting his use of the word “clumsy” when describing the Knicks in his talk with Andrea Kremer (NYT - Beck - 6/15; CBS - Moore - 6/16; AP-Fox - “Phil” - 6/16), Jackson is broadly painted as being aloof to the MSG post.
I think that’s hog-wash, straight from the media spin-cycle.
Besides the obvious reasons, like his availability and NYC past, there are ‘tells’ (and red-herrings) in these floated excerpts of the interview that tell me Phil was, if not enamored, at least somewhat vested in the idea of filling the Knicks‘ coaching job last May.
First he tells Andrea, “I wasn’t gonna’ take the (Knicks) job, that’s for sure.” That’s a red-herring. If,…IF you were interested in a position, took a gander and it didn’t develop, isn’t that like something you’d say? Maybe.
To further dampen curiosity, the coach states Knicks’ ownership “never called.” But that could mean one of two things: either their people had no conversation at all about the job, or, both sides put out pre-interview feelers, reached an impasse and hence, no phone call.
Then Phil wades into the Knicks roster, making it sound like his typical scenario, a talented team in need of a maestro to bring it all together to make beautiful music (Bulls (‘89) & Lakers (‘99)) and the perfect setting for start of the newest Jacksonian Era.
Rightly perplexed, Andrea prompts the Zen-master: “But wouldn’t you have been the perfect person to come in and blend all that talent together? You sort of have a good history of that.”
Phil: “Yeah. Well, it didn’t happened.” That’s a tell.
He could have said, ‘You’re right, Andrea, in the past that’s exactly the spot I would've reveled in and took-on as a challenge. But now I’m older and don’t have that kind of energy, that kind of patience.’ He didn’t say that.
Instead: “Yeah. Well, it didn’t happen.”
Reads to me like a guy who was curious-interested about the job and feels a bit put-off.
You have to read between the lines here but it’s not like some coded-text CIA-man Rob Redford and his ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ co-workers (RIP) had to decipher in Three Days of the Condor (‘75).
Intentional or not, Phil Jackson may’ve given us all a clue. I think, within certain parameters, he wanted the Knicks job. But ownership, for whatever reason, wouldn’t or couldn’t make it happen. Heck, PJ himself made the case for his hiring in the interview.
Why the deal never matured, only the possible principals would know that story. But it’s hard to imagine, someone with Jackson’s reputation, experience, in these circumstances, not being contacted at all or making the fatal negotiation error of asking for something he couldn’t reasonably expect from Knicks’ ownership. Hard to imagine, indeed.
Though, if I’m Knicks’ owner James Dolan / MSG, I don’t offer Phil the sun and the moon, let alone the stars too. Phil’s getting up there in years and he wasn’t being disingenuous about the problems with team chemistry at the Garden. No matter who's at the helm, turning this Knicks' roster into a Finals regular is a long-shot.
And if you’re a Knicks’ fan whose pride was left a little bruised by the Jackson interview, my advice: suck it up. Nothing said in those interview-excerpts hasn’t already been hammered home by media & fans, around the nation, ad nausea, for the past two years.
But it’s all a moot point now as the Knickerbockers made 2012 interim coach Mike Woodson their main-man. He could be the answer-man as the team seemed to find some direction, some stability under his late-season stewardship after D’Antoni’s departure.
This Knicks team needs more than direction to become a viable contender. It’s a group in need of a decorated-leader whose reputation compels all to subjugate their egos (Anthony / Stoudemire) and take instruction, especially when hard times test your resolve & faith.
Big question: Does Phil keep himself free on chance Woodson quickly becomes the out-man? My hunch: “Maybe no (Furio)” That's not Phil’s style.
The full HBO interview may shed more light on Phil Jackson's mindset. Present reports indicate he's ready to venture back into the game in the right situation. Ending his coaching tenure where his NBA career began would’ve been special, but then the Knicks are a riddle that even the Zen-master or CIA bookworm would have trouble de-coding.