Jack­son exit none too soon for fans

The Washington Times Daily - - SPORTS - DERON SNY­DER

As a na­tive New Yorker and life­long Knicks fan, joy­ous oc­ca­sions sur­round­ing pro bas­ket­ball have been scarce. I was 11 and obliv­i­ous when they won their last NBA ti­tle. The two Fi­nals since then left a slew of scars and bad mem­o­ries. There was John Starks’ pu­trid 2-for-18 shoot­ing in Game 7 against Hous­ton (1994), and dom­i­na­tion by San An­to­nio’s Twin Tow­ers — Tim Dun­can and David Robin­son — in a five-game cake­walk (1999).

They haven’t ad­vanced as far as the East­ern Con­fer­ence fi­nals since 2000 and the last three years have been par­tic­u­larly painful, an 80-166 record with dim prospects mov­ing for­ward.

But on a sched­ule slightly shorter than Hal­ley’s Comet, hope re-ap­peared in Gotham on Wed­nes­day: Phil Jack­son packed his rings and left.

“Af­ter care­ful thought and con­sid­er­a­tion, we mu­tu­ally agreed that the Knicks will be go­ing in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion,” team owner Jim Dolan said in a state­ment. “Phil Jack­son is one of the most cel­e­brated and suc­cess­ful in­di­vid­u­als in the his­tory of the NBA. His legacy in the game of bas­ket­ball is un­matched. We wish him the best and thank him for his ser­vice to the Knicks as both a player and an ex­ec­u­tive.”

Nice try, lump­ing Jack­son’s ten­ure on the cham­pi­onship teams with his three-year stew­ard­ship of a laugh­ing­stock.

But thank­ing Jack­son for his work as pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions is like thank­ing Ed­ward Smith for skip­per­ing the Ti­tanic.

At least not ev­ery life/game was lost. Knicks fans are adept at cel­e­brat­ing small vic­to­ries.

It’s go­ing to be a while be­fore the Knicks cause ticker tape to flut­ter in the “Canyon of He­roes,” but Wed­nes­day’s an­nounce­ment is the next-best rea­son to hold a pa­rade. Carmelo An­thony and Kristaps Porzingis should serve as grand mar­shals, hav­ing out­lasted the man who wanted them gone.

If only the move had hap­pened sooner, like Day 1. Or be­fore the draft.

Jack­son’s ob­ses­sion with his an­ti­quated of­fense was a ma­jor rea­son New York chose 18-year-old Frank Nti­lik­ina with the eighth pick. The French point guard could de­velop into a fine NBA player, but an ex­ec­u­tive not hell­bent on the tri­an­gle might’ve made a dif­fer­ent choice, say, point guard Den­nis Smith Jr., whom the Mav­er­icks lapped up ea­gerly at No. 9.

The next head hon­cho ul­ti­mately might ap­pre­ci­ate in­her­it­ing Nti­lik­ina. Jack­son’s lone strength at the helm was iden­ti­fy­ing tal­ent over­seas. He drafted Porzingis fourth over­all in 2015 and the Lat­vian is New York’s most valu­able as­set. In the same draft, Jack­son traded for Willy Her­man­gomez. The Spa­niard de­buted last sea­son and earned first-team NBA All-Rookie hon­ors.

But other than those two, maybe three, draft picks, Jack­son’s reign brought only pain.

The moves were so bad, rank­ing them is dif­fi­cult. Was the worst giv­ing de­crepit Joakim Noah a four-year, $72 mil­lion con­tract? How about throw­ing in a to­tally un­nec­es­sary no-trade clause when An­thony re-signed? Pre­fer trad­ing Tyson Chan­dler in one deal and J.R. Smith plus Iman Shumpert in an­other, for lit­tle-to-noth­ing in re­turn?

All of those are fine choices for most-bone­headed de­ci­sion. But you also must con­sider Jack­son’s first ma­jor call, hir­ing a coach (Derek Fisher) who didn’t have ex­pe­ri­ence at any level and played the prior sea­son. (Yes, it worked out for Ja­son Kidd, but he’s a Hall-of-Famer). Jack­son also traded four pro­duc­tive play­ers for broke-down Der­rick Rose.

“I had hoped, of course, to bring an­other NBA cham­pi­onship to the Gar­den,” Jack­son said in a state­ment. “As some­one who trea­sures win­ning, I am deeply dis­ap­pointed that we weren’t able to do that. New York fans de­serve noth­ing less.”

Ac­tu­ally, we’ve got­ten ex­actly what we de­serve un­der the cur­rent own­er­ship. With Dolan atop the or­ga­ni­za­tion, our cel­e­bra­tions can’t be full-throated.

Af­ter desta­bi­liz­ing the Knicks through a se­ries of blun­ders — giv­ing the keys to Isa­iah Thomas; run­ning off pres­i­dent/GM Don­nie Walsh; big-foot­ing An­thony’s trade from Den­ver — he hired Jack­son and stepped back. Chief Tri­an­gle re­placed the owner as New York’s fa­vorite piñata, tak­ing the wrath off Dolan.

He had a great idea but chose a ter­ri­ble ex­ec­u­tive.

Jack­son wasn’t cut out for the job, which re­quired an abun­dance of work less glam­orous than he en­joyed as coach of the Bulls and Lak­ers. Be­sides, his heart was never in it. He re­ally longed for a role in L.A. with his now-former girl­friend, Lak­ers pres­i­dent Jeanie Buss.

The fact that she never brought His Smug­ness aboard as a Lak­ers ex­ec­u­tive should’ve been a clue. Ex­cept Dolan was blinded by an A-list hoops celebrity willing to ac­cept $60 mil­lion over five years.

It’s not our money. But if he needed help to pay off Jack­son’s last two years, there’d be no short­age of do­na­tions from Knicks fans.

We’d buy out Dolan, too, though that’s a pipe dream.

Oh well. For now, we’re just thank­ful this wish came true:

See you later, Phil!

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