At 68 years of age and three years removed from coaching professional basketball, it is doubtful that Phil Jackson will ever take up being on the sidelines in a official capacity ever again, and recently rebuffing the New York Knicks only reaffirmed this. But after Jackson ruled out being a head coach, Knicks owner James Dolan came back calling about a front office role, and he would be wise to offer the Zen Master ultimate control of basketball operations. In fact, if he does and it works, the the team will be a title contender within two years.
On the surface of things, it would be difficult to imagine Jackson having any interest in being a part of this Knicks team. After all, they are 23-40 during the current season, 5.5 games out of the last Eastern Conference playoff spot and essentially handicapped by having up to $90.8 million in guaranteed salary on the books. If they lose Carmelo Anthony during the offseason, then the Knicks will be a team over the salary cap threshold with no star players; and if he does re-sign, the team will be spending above the luxury tax threshold and still likely won’t be a playoff squad.
But all is not doom and gloom in New York, and it can be assured that Jackson is smart enough to realize this. Currently the team only has $13.4 million in salary set to be paid out in salary for the 2015-16 season, which drops down to $1.73 million if you take out the three players that have options for the season. This effectively means that Jackson would have the opportunity to build a team from scratch, and it must be said he will have plenty of options to do so.
During the summer of 2015, the slate of players who are going to be free agents is nothing short of historic, as Kyrie Irving, Rajon Rondo, Ricky Rubio, Arron Afflalo, Klay Thompson, Eric Gordon, Jimmy Butler, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love, Kenneth Faried, Omer Asik, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Al Jefferson and Roy Hibbert could all be free agents. Granted seven of these players would be harder to get because of restricted free agents status, but it is hard to imagine that Jackson would not be able to attract two or three players out of this group to team up with Anthony — or without — and go after a few NBA Championships. And if this requires giving up a few draft picks for one restricted free agent, then so be it.
Right now the Knicks look to be one of the worst situations in all of basketball, but Phil Jackson can, and would make them an NBA Title favorite within two years this if given free reign of all basketball operations. There is simply no better basketball mind in the world than Jackson, and there is no telling how dominant of a team he could build if given a clean slate and the amount of available free agents that will be up for grabs in 2015. But first, New York will have to fetch up the cash, and in a big way.