Nothin' but Net: Jackson passed the first test
By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor
Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - In some situations life throws at us, victory can be claimed by showing up and not falling over.
Other situations require more tact and craft. A person has to be able to work a room, either through charisma or candor.
Phil Jackson needed to handle Tuesday's introductory press conference as new president of the New York Knicks with the necessary aplomb to assuage several different masters.
Jackson had questions to answer for on Tuesday and did a pretty sterling job.
For starters, he handled the easy, logistical stuff solidly.
Jackson has a five-year contract, terms of which were not announced, but safe to say, he'll make more than you.
To the delight of some Soho realtor, Jackson will live in New York. It's too difficult a job to do from his ranch, or from the beach in L.A., plus, living in Manhattan, or wherever, shows a clear signal to the skeptic Knicks fan that he's serious (he'll still have to go to LA for medical appointments and his fiance lives there).
Jackson is the president of the Knicks. Basketball decisions are his. Oh sure, Steve Mills is still with the team as the general manager, and both report to owner James Dolan, but Jackson is the one in charge.
With the line of succession confirmed, the most important thing on the mind of anyone involved with the Knicks, be it a front office man, Spike Lee or a regular schmoe from Newark: what is next for Carmelo Anthony?
"I have no problem committing to saying Carmelo is in the future plans," Jackson said.
There it is, despite shredding the Knicks roster in an interview with "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" before the season, and insinuating Anthony's stagnant nature with the ball hurt the flow, Jackson wants Anthony to stay in New York.
Of course, he does. The Knicks job isn't a rebuilding one, like the Philadelphia 76ers or Utah Jazz. Jackson won't have the luxury of first-round draft picks through much of his contracted tenure, and Dolan has money to burn. The Knicks will have millions free after next season when Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani will most likely not be retained.
Jackson appeared to realize the grim nature of a rebuilding situation, at one point stating that his focus will actually be more on NBA players who haven't gotten a chance yet over college kids to round out his roster.
Some of what Jackson said was mildly discouraging, but mildly at the worst. He sounded like a man who won't be making many scouting trips, once joking about Kiev and once joking about how his body couldn't handle sitting in high school gyms.
It also sounded like Jackson wants everything to do with the basketball side and nothing to do with the business side.
Maybe that's why Mills is still here.
"With his ability to know workings of the NBA, knowing all the crooks and crannies in that space, and also relationships with agents, I think we have a teamwork situation here that'll be swift," Jackson said of Mills.
Freudian slip aside, Jackson will still rely on others for the grunt work.
But, more importantly than his thoughts on Anthony, or whether he'll be at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, was Jackson's presence. That's what Dolan hired him for, as much as his basketball mind, it was for the aura of Phil Jackson.
And Jackson played the part. He looked like a leader, a face of a franchise.
He made his opening statements without a single note.
He spoke beautifully about his ties to New York, not just the Knicks, but the city, and its significance.
He spoke to the fans to soothe their concerns.
He tried to reassure the media that, yes, there will be times the brass is quieter than a POW, but that won't be the norm. That's a huge concern because Dolan and his minions are legendary for tight-lippedeness.
"I will try to monitor my blabber-mouth," he joked.
Things will get worse and quickly for Jackson. The Knicks are still a long shot to make the Eastern Conference playoffs. There's just four weeks and one day left in the 2013-14 regular season.
Immediately after, Jackson begins his courtship of Carmelo. Jackson will most likely have to hire a new coach and he'll have to mine the rosters, or "work the bushes," as he said, to fit his "system-based basketball."
It's another season of probable mediocrity, then the real work begins one year and three months from now.
Until then, it's one hurdle down, several more to go.
"We're not anticipating time. We're going to make one step at a time," Jackson said.
It's the right philosophy and at least Knicks fans have a face from which to believe. Phil Jackson is now the New York Knicks. The onus falls squarely on him.
Whether he's at all qualified remains a mystery, but Jackson gave Spike Lee and everyone else cause for faith. Unconditional faith might be too much to ask, but Jackson passed the first test.
03/18 14:43:17 ET