A refreshed-looking Phil Jackson was introduced Tuesday morning as president of the New York Knicks, the newly minted basketball executive saying restoring his one-time team to greatness would represent “a pinnacle” of his extraordinary career.
Flanked by Knicks owner Jim Dolan and General Manager Steve Mills at his introductory news conference at Madison Square Garden, Jackson made no promises about a quick turnaround but said he intended to foster a culture that emphasized team basketball regardless of whether it eventually runs the triangle offense.
“It’s not an insistence,” Jackson said of his preferred offense, “but I do like to have a system and I like a method of playing basketball. I think there’s a logical method of playing basketball in which there’s a number of principles.”
Jackson said he was given a five-year contract and intended to live primarily in New York once he resolved some logistical and medical issues.
One concern he apparently won’t have to overcome: a meddlesome Dolan. When asked whether he would cede authority of basketball operations to Jackson, the notoriously hands-on Dolan said, “Willingly and gratefully, yeah.”
Said Jackson: “Jim knew I wasn’t going to come if this didn’t happen, so there’s no reason not for him to have said it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”
Jackson said he wanted the team to retain star player Carmelo Anthony, who can opt out of his contract after the season, and would consider keeping Coach Mike Woodson, who has guided the team back into playoff contention after a horrid start to its season.
“I have no problems with saying that Carmelo is in the future plans,” Jackson said. “As great a player as he is, he still has another level he can go to and together with the team we create he can get there.”
Jackson acknowledged the challenges he faces rebuilding a team that does not have a first-round draft pick this summer and will remain above the salary cap until 2015, forcing it to get creative with roster decisions.
“We’re going to have to go out and work the bushes for players this next year,” Jackson said, “and we’re going to have to work the coming years as we do go forward and get draft picks and get a chance to build this team.”
Dolan said discussions about hiring Jackson began informally at a December party hosted by a mutual friend. Jackson, who has won 11 championships as a coach and two as a player with the Knicks, said he was intrigued by the idea of returning to his former franchise.
“There’s no better place to win than in New York City,” Jackson said. “It’s really something that’s special and it had a definite impact in my decision to come back here. Now to come back to where I started in basketball, it’s a great feeling.”
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