By Charles Glover Jr.
With rumors swirling that Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson is considering a front office position with, the New York Knicks, the team he once won a championship with as a player, the question that comes to mind is, can even he save this team? The Knicks’ franchise has a tortured recent history of mishaps and missteps that traces all the way back to 1995 when then head coach Pat Riley wanted final control over personnel matters. While it wasn’t clear at the time, the Knicks should have given in to his request.
The immediate aftermath of Riley’s acrimonious departure was actually favorable for the Knicks. The Miami Heat, where Riley signed on the day after turning down the Knicks contract extension offer, were found guilty of tampering and the Knicks would consistently get the better of the Heat in the several times the teams would meet in the playoffs between 1996 and 2001. However, the takeaway from Riley’s early tenure is that the Heat became immediate championship contenders shortly after his arrival as a head coach/president of operations. Meanwhile, the Knicks’ post-Riley experience peaked in 1999 with an upset of the Heat, with the Knicks as a #8 seed, and another unsuccessful trip to the NBA Finals. When Riley stepped down as head coach of the Heat in 2004 after a string of disappointing seasons, it was the beginning of a successful stretch of executive moves.
Riley has made some smart decisions in the NBA Draft, taking players like Eddie House, Caron Butler, Dwayne Wade, and Mario Chalmers, all players that have helped the Heat teams win championships. Riley is more known for his ability to attract free agents and make significant trades. In 1996, Riley traded for Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, then signed key free agents like Jamal Mashburn, P.J. Brown, and Dan Majerle over the next couple of seasons to make that team a championship contender. In 2004, Riley signed Lamar Odom, then used him in a trade, along with a draft pick, Caron Butler, and Brian Grant, to acquire Shaquille O’Neal from the Los Angeles Lakers. However, Riley will forever be linked to successfully convincing LeBron James to take his “talents to South Beach” when James, Wade, and Chris Bosh all joined forces in the summer of 2010. The signing of Ray Allen proved that Riley possesses the ability to convince high quality players that championships can be had if they join his team.
As Knicks fans jump for joy with the possibility of Phil Jackson taking over as president of basketball operations, there is a lesson to be learned from the Riley saga. As successful as Riley has been with the Heat, it took him 10 years to bring that franchise a championship. It took another six years and the best player in the NBA to win the second championship. There’s no doubt that the Knicks would have to be better with Jackson at the helm, as long as James Dolan stays completely out-of-the-way.
But, if Jackson’s goal is to bring a championship to New York, that does not seem to be on the way any time soon, based on NBA trends. So Knicks fans should temper their expectations regarding Jackson’s final decision and ask this question instead: Have the Knicks really learned from the Pat Riley saga, or is this just more of the same, with a so-called executive in charge on paper and Dolan meddling as usual behind the scenes?.–OnPointPress.net–
Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.