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It probably isn’t the nicest thing to mock the NBA’s oldest team personnel chief behind his back while he ambles his way through nearly the whole of the continental U.S. while driving his brother back to his house in Idaho.
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Then again, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson isn’t exactly out of the loop, either. He’s out of more loops than Knick fans would probably find ideal, but the man is definitely plugged in. Why else would Jackson, who will turn 71 in September, be tweeting out snapshots of his trip from upstate New York to his brother’s place in Idaho?
There was this surprise of a gem, though we can’t tell if Phil (used to living on the coasts) was being a little elitist facetious …
— Phil Jackson (@PhilJackson11) May 4, 2016
And this shot of him outside of the mark that saw Crazy Horse fall in Nebraska:
Jackson has apparently been working his way to Chuck Jackson’s house in Idaho after a somewhat contentious final meeting with New York press following New York’s disappointing 32-50 season. He worked his way past his home in upstate New York before the Sioux Falls visit, where his brother confirmed that the two were on their way toward Idaho.
All while, in the interim, no new Knick head coaches appear to be on their way into New York.
Jackson has famously taken sojourns like these in order to clear his head following a season’s end, though because of his past coaching success these trips usually occurred during the summer months. Phil’s summer months this year will be filled with free agent intrigue, something he didn’t have to deal with in Chicago and Los Angeles. For the third straight campaign (and second straight full turn under Phil) the Knicks missed the playoffs and had little to fret about following February, allowing for Jackson to hit the bricks in April – possibly his only chance to get away.
That would be understandable if all hell hand’t broken loose in the NBA coaching ranks. As if it were ever tied together to begin with.
On Thursday, the Indiana Pacers fired coach Frank Vogel, the third such firing of a postseason coach (Houston, Cleveland … Houston twice if you count J.B. Bickerstaff’s decision to walk away from the Rockets’ mess this week) during 2015-16. The Sacramento Kings have interviewed everyone short of Chuck Jackson for its job, the Timberwolves already hired Tom Thibodeau for theirs, and meanwhile intrigue abounds in Milwaukee and Memphis as those teams face make or break years in 2016-17.
Most telling, Luke Walton agreed to terms with the Lakers even before his Golden State Warriors got out of the second round, even with the knowledge that Los Angeles might not have its lottery pick this year, and with the (unfortunate) daily reminders that 2015-16 NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr is still far from 100 percent as he recovers from offseason back surgeries.
Meanwhile, Jackson is taking his time. To top it off, there’s this from ESPN New York’s Ian Begley:
“League sources say that some involved in the Knicks' coaching search have been informed that Phil is away right now. The implication is that the search is on hold.”
Or that there never was one to begin with, with family friend Kurt Rambis still technically the Knicks’ head coach, following his ascension to interim head coach status following the dismissal of Derek Fisher as Knicks coach a year and a half into his coaching career.
By the time Jackson returns to his job, viable candidates Brian Shaw may have joined Walton in Los Angeles, Nate McMillan or Bulls assistant Jim Boylen could be running the Pacers, any number of names could be the head of the Houston Rockets (Bickerstaff’s decision makes it easier for Jeff Van Gundy to get past his admirable and Phil Jackson-inspired “never interview for a team that already has a coach”-policy) and Vogel can be anywhere.
Rick Pitino, who brought Vogel into the NBA all the way back in 1997, thinks that he would work swimmingly in New York. Phil Jackson doesn’t like being told what to do, though, so any slight chance of Vogel taking over probably died with those comments. Suggestions that Phil Jackson, scrolling through his phone, no doubt saw.
Even longtime Knick sympathizers are a bit annoyed with the inactivity, especially as fans are due to turn in season ticket orders on Friday. From the New York Post’s Marc Berman:
“If Jackson sits out the Vogel Sweepstakes, it could demonstrate the Knicks’ coaching search is more farce than fervent.”
There is always former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, a former college teammate of technical Knicks general manager Steve Mills, and Blatt was interviewed by Mills last week. And we could even go as giving the Knicks a bit too much credit in wondering if they’re waiting out the 2015-16 run of San Antonio Spurs assistant Ettore Messina.
Messina’s season could end as late as June 19, though, less than two weeks before free agency begins. That’s hardly an ideal start to create the sort of “simpatico” relationship between front office and coach that Jackson said that he’d like to create.
He already has that sort of relationship with Kurt Rambis, an Elvis Costello-type to Jackson’s Robbie Robertson, and their respective spouses are also best of friends.
In an age where septuagenarians can send Twitpics out from the most remote of locations, face-to-face meetings in Manhattan offices aren’t exactly needed in order to suss out the best candidates. You can get a feel of someone’s connection (or lack thereof) with you over the phone, and Phil genuinely doesn’t have to be stalking the corridors of Madison Square Garden as he approaches Introduction Day. Don’t tell this to Carmelo Anthony (who has just about thrown up his hands), though we have nearly $130 million reasons not to feel sorry for the Knicks All-Star.
Even Jackson’s own boss, currently, is off on another pathetic attempt to pass himself off as the opening act that Jewel really, really wanted, he swears. Urgency, clearly (especially with no first round pick to use), is not the order of the day.
By pointing to this “I do this every year”-trip as the reason why he was left cold in the coaching turnover, prior to making it official with Rambis, Jackson has set himself up for all the explanations – and he doesn’t really care if you can see right through them. The difference here is that Jackson once took these road trips after having to travel to 41 road games a regular season on a bad back and hip, juggling the egos of superstars every day in games and practice, coaching around 100 games a year in championship totals. Acting as a team president is a little cushier.
We know where this is all headed, in New York this season and California the next. It’d be a little nicer if Phil Jackson wasn’t trying to pull the curls over Knick fans’ eyes, though.
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