The New York Knicks won’t know what kind of basketball executive they’re getting even if, as reports have indicated, Phil Jackson agrees to join their front office by the end of the week.
Will he be as shrewd in constructing a roster as he was in coaching one? Will he put in the legwork required to scout and evaluate players? Will he relocate to New York? Can he travel extensively at age 68?
The Knicks can’t be sure of any of this.
But there will be one certainty as far as the Lakers are concerned: They let Jackson get away again.
Adrift amid possibly the worst season since the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1960, the Lakers need a stabilizing presence in their front office (not to mention in the office currently occupied by Coach Mike D’Antoni, but that’s another story).
Though he has helped build multiple championship teams, General Manager Mitch Kupchak is constrained by the perception his decisions must be approved by team executive Jim Buss. Buss is hurt by the team’s current state, his coaching hires since Jackson departed in 2011 and his reluctance to speak publicly about any of this.
Bringing Jackson aboard would provide an assurance that the Lakers are doing everything they can to return to their championship ways. Even if he hasn’t accomplished anything as an executive, Jackson’s 11 NBA titles as a coach bring instant credibility, and his presence would soothe an antsy fan base that has rightfully questioned the direction of its beloved but besmirched franchise.
Jackson could provide the kind of dynamic, charismatic face the organization has lacked since longtime owner Jerry Buss died last year. He could work in tandem with Jim Buss and Kupchak to make the kinds of moves in the draft, in free agency and via trades that could get the team back into contention ASAP.
If he zings anyone who dares to get in the way, all the better.
The Lakers already bungled bringing Jackson back after they fired Mike Brown last season. They can’t afford to let him get away again when their team’s fortunes have sunk even lower and Jackson’s value has never been greater.
Their future could depend on not letting history repeat itself.
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