Knicks ready to name Phil Jackson as their front-office savior
Official announcement expected Tuesday
Seattle Times news services
NEW YORK — A massive rebuilding project will soon begin in midtown Manhattan, where the New York Knicks have turned to Phil Jackson, a former coach with unrivaled credentials, to run the front office and restore order to the shambles at Madison Square Garden.
Jackson, part of the Knicks’ championship era as a player in the early 1970s, will be introduced as the team’s new president Tuesday, according to two people in the NBA familiar with the discussions. A Knicks spokesman declined to comment. The team released a statement that said a major announcement would be made Tuesday.
Jackson’s spadework has built marvels before: He won 11 NBA championships as coach of the Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers. This time, he will need a backhoe.
He has never held a position in a front office, let alone run one, and his first assignment is a doozy: resuscitate the Knicks after years of mismanagement. Despite having the league’s second-highest payroll, the Knicks have a 26-40 record. Although their current five-game winning streak has kept them in contention for a playoff spot in the woeful Eastern Conference, the Knicks are still in danger of missing the postseason for the seventh time in the past 10 years.
The negotiations between Jackson and the Knicks have dragged on, and a news conference scheduled for Tuesday morning leaves time for both sides to make last-minute demands. Reports have Jackson’s salary between $10 million and $15 million a year.
When Jackson does take the reins as expected, he inherits a group of aging players and mismatched parts, with one superstar, Carmelo Anthony, who plans to opt out of his contract and explore free agency this summer. Mike Woodson, in his third season as the coach, could be on his way out, and the team has traded away several future draft choices.
Denver coach Brian Shaw, who played for Jackson and has been an assistant under him as well, said he would not be surprised to see one of his mentors take on the challenge of rebuilding the Knicks.
“I think he’s a basketball lifer, a basketball junkie,” Shaw said. “I think that with all the success that he’s had, what he’s learned and his passion for the game, I think it gets boring when you do something like he’s done all his life and all of a sudden you’re kind of out of the mix. If he does do it, he’d be excited about the challenge of attacking the game from a different position.”
Shaw has spoken with Jackson regularly during the season, saying his former coach will sometimes call or text to ask if a play the Nuggets run was one that they used together during their triangle-offense days.
Shaw likely will be mentioned as a potential coaching candidate in New York if the Knicks decide to part ways with Woodson.
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• Jonas Valanciunas scored a season-high 23 points, Kyle Lowry had 22 points and 12 assists against his former team, and the Raptors, at home, won for the 11th time in 14 games, beating the Grizzlies 99-86.
• Kenneth Faried scored 24 points, Darrell Arthur led a big effort from Denver’s bench with 18, and the visiting Nuggets beat the suddenly reeling Heat 111-107, handing the NBA champions their fifth defeat in six games. Denver’s reserves scored 57 points. Former Sonic Ray Allen scored 22 points for Miami.
• Damian Lillard scored 27 points, Nicolas Batum added 22 and Portland snapped a four-game skid while playing without LaMarcus Aldridge (back), beating host New Orleans 111-103. Wesley Matthews had 20 points for the Trail Blazers.
• Jazz forward Marvin Williams (lower back), out of Bremerton, and Clippers guard Jamal Crawford (right calf), out of Seattle, missed the teams’ game in Salt Lake City because of injuries.
• The Bucks have signed free-agent forward Chris Wright to a 10-day contract. Wright was playing for Maine in the D-League.