State of Knicks After Jackson’s Farewell

When the news broke Wednesday morning that the Knicks and Phil Jackson had mutually agreed to part ways, there was a tumult of emotion – both positive and negative.

Putting that aside, let’s consider the state of the Knicks:

In Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks have a rising superstar.

In Willy Hernangomez, the Knicks have a talented young center who was just named to the NBA All-Rookie team.

In first-round draft choice Frank Ntilikina, the Knicks have a young point guard – not a triangle point guard, rather a pass-and-defense-first point guard – who ESPN’s player projection model gives the highest chance to be a star of any lottery pick — roughly twice that of the top picks.

[Press Release: Phil Jackson, New York Knicks Agree to Part Company]

And Jackson’s tenure with the Knicks as President of Basketball Operations hasn’t been the train wreck shock jocks have been making it out to be.

“When you look at some of the young talents, the Knicks have some pieces,’’ said one Eastern Conference coach. “Talent wasn’t the big issue. The culture needed to become more player friendly.’’


Jackson and the Knicks mutually agreed to part ways Wednesday morning, giving the franchise a unique opportunity to get the train oiled, tuned and back on the fast track.

Knicks GM Steve Mills, a highly-regarded executive with a more engaging demeanor than Jackson, has been placed in charge of the franchise on an interim basis, which shouldn’t be viewed as a position of impotency.

Mills, who will be assisted by Tim Leiweke, the CEO of Oak View Group, a remarkably successful development and investment company for the sport, has been given a mandate by owner Jim Dolan to, “help develop a go-forward plan.”

That’s what today’s news means: The Knicks are in go-forward mode.

They begin the process of reversing the subtle, albeit detrimental climate, that led to Jackson’s departure.

Were there some unideal contracts? Absolutely.

Did Jackson err in thinking the style he used to win 11 NBA championships as a coach would work as a GM? Of course.

But that’s in the rearview mirror.

Dolan didn’t get to where he is without understanding the importance of interpersonal relationships. The decision for the Knicks to part ways with Jackson wasn’t about basketball moves as much as it was about relationship snafus.

Jackson, as we know, alienated star Carmelo Anthony. Anthony, one of the most respected players in the NBA, is the leader in the Knicks’ locker room.

The player Anthony has taken under his wing, Porzingis, saw how Anthony was portrayed and rebelled, albeit immaturely. And Porzingis should not have blown off his exit interview.

But having done so, he illuminated the climate that has to change. The Mills/Leiweke tandem is a good start to the reconciliation process.

Anthony, assuming he remains a Knick, will benefit from getting out from under the day-to-day ethos of his relationship with Jackson.

Porzingis, who has been working relentlessly to make his third season a breakthrough one, should return to the fold with renewed enthusiasm. He has the chance to be a star in the city of stars.

All the noise about the triangle offense just went sotto voce. Basketball isn’t nuclear engineering, which free agent guard Canyon Barry knows all about.

It’s about five teammates playing free, playing for each other, playing to win. Spacing and ball movement; defense didn’t start with the Golden State Warriors. The Knicks were pretty good at it in the late 60s and early 70s.

“It’s a tough day for us, but really our focus is to get this team better, continue to build our young players and figure out a way to win,” Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek told reporters in Orlando where the team begins it Summer League schedule Saturday (3 p.m.; MSGNetwork).

[Knicks 2017 Summer League Roster]

“So we have a lot of time before the regular season, and we’ll figure all that out.”

Figuring out how to win just became a little easier.

The climate will become more player friendly. Jackson, we should remember, saw the talent of many of the players on the roster.

“Phil Jackson is one of the most celebrated and successful individuals in the history of the NBA,’’ Dolan said in a statement released by the team. “His legacy in the game of basketball is unmatched. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the Knicks as both a player and an executive.’’

Jackson’s shortcoming was not being able to communicate his message as a President of Basketball Operations with the genius he did as a coach.

Michael Jordan was one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He couldn’t hit a baseball. None of us are all things.

“I had hoped, of course, to bring another NBA championship to the Garden,’’ Jackson said in the same statement. “As someone who treasures winning, I am deeply disappointed that we weren’t able to do that.

“New York fans deserve nothing less. I wish them and the Knicks organization all the best – today and always.”

Knicks fans, who do indeed deserve nothing less than a title, should remember June 28 as Day One of the Go Forward Plan.