Phil Jackson talks tumultuous Knicks tenure, doesn't think Carmelo Anthony 'completely knew how to be a leader'

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Alex Smith
·3 min read
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Phil Jackson speaking with Knicks logo behind him
Phil Jackson speaking with Knicks logo behind him

Former Knicks president Phil Jackson, speaking as a guest on The Curious Leader podcast, discussed his tumultuous tenure with the team while also calling out Carmelo Anthony’s ability as a leader.

Jackson, who played with the Knicks from 1967-78, was hired as the team’s president in March 2014, just a few years after finishing his illustrious coaching career. His tenure as a Knicks executive lasted just over three years, as he and the team parted ways in June 2017.

“It was best to leave and I think as a favor, (James) Dolan relieved me of the job,” Jackson said. “I think he actually did me a favor.”

Of the many topics Jackson discussed, he gave a candid take on Anthony’s ability as a leader, saying that he tried to trade the All-Star, but Anthony wouldn’t comply.

“Carmelo, I think, wanted to be a leader, but I don’t think he completely knew how to be a leader as a player,” Jackson said. “And I think that the strength of his personality was intimidating to some of the coaches that were asked to coach the team. And so there wasn’t this compliance that has to happen between players and coaches. And as much I tried to interject my own beliefs, I don’t think you’re close enough to the ground in that situation to really be effective in dictating how things are going to be done.

“I wanted to trade Carmelo and ... he’s got a no-trade clause that they asked for, but I suggested that if there was a situation — and I asked them to trade, I wanted them to be compliant with it. And you can have all your choices that you want but I want you to go along with the idea that maybe your time has come with being with the Knicks. So that was met without compliance.”

Also of note from the interview, Jackson discussed the decision to hire and later fire Derek Fisher as the Knicks’ head coach, and how he himself considered coaching the team before hiring Kurt Rambis.

“Derek Fisher, I thought, was one of my top leaders of the Lakers team and a guy who understood the relationship of players to a game and offensively how the (triangle) system plays,” Jackson said. “He was himself caught up in a personal situation. It was a distraction. And at best, undermined his authority with the team.

“Perhaps the best thing I could’ve done was just coach the team myself. But I wasn’t physically able to do that. I had to convey that through people I chose to step in. It didn’t seem to work out. And as a consequence I thought we had the talent but we never found that niche, that ability to just play beyond talent and play concise, connected, organized basketball.”

You can listen to Jackson’s full interview on The Curious Leader (the first of two parts) by clicking here.