NEW YORK — The video board outside Madison Square Garden read “Welcome Home Phil,” and highlights of Phil Jackson’s Knicks career played as “Glory Days” blared. Inside the building, Jackson talked about bringing the Knicks back to that special time more than 40 years ago.
Jackson was introduced Tuesday morning as Knicks president. Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan said he “willingly and gratefully” gave control of basketball operations to Jackson, who has 11 NBA rings as a coach and two as a player with the Knicks.
“Phil will be in charge of all basketball decisions,” Dolan said.
Jackson, 68, said had he not received that authority, he wouldn’t have been sitting between Dolan and Steve Mills, now the Knicks’ general manager after having president removed from his title.
“Jim knew I wasn’t going to come if this didn’t happen,” Jackson said. “As we move forward, we have a great chance, a great opportunity. This is the best place to play basketball.”
This partnership also would not have happened if not for Irving Azoff, a manager who represents the Eagles music group and is a business partner of Dolan’s. He invited Jackson and Dolan to a party at his California home in December. They began talking about teaming up and continued speaking, culminating with a five-year deal for Jackson that Azoff negotiated.
The conversation began with coaching the Knicks, but Jackson had no interest. He has had five operations over the past few years, so coaching – and possibly the Knicks’ roster that he called “clumsy” two years ago – didn’t appeal to him.
Jackson stressed Carmelo Anthony “is in the future plans,” but he is also preaching patience as he tries to rebuild the Knicks.
A key member of the Knicks’ last NBA championship team in 1973, Jackson said he’s committed to bringing back the teamwork principles he learned from Red Holzman and that he stressed as coach of the Bulls and Lakers. He hopes to have the same success – in time.
Jackson answered critics who said he has no front-office experience by saying he was very involved in personnel decisions in Chicago and was behind the 1988 trade of Charles Oakley to the Knicks for Bill Cartwright.
He plans to move to New York but will be bicoastal at first because his family and his fiancee, Lakers executive Jeannie Buss, live in Los Angeles. He also said he has a few medical issues that will bring him back to the West Coast.