Blame Phil if this move fails


NEW YORK -- Phil Jackson said that he does not fear the consequences of failure in his new job, that he sees nothing but opportunity in a New York Knicks franchise that leads the league in squandering it. But in reality, Jackson should be afraid. Very, very afraid.

The president of the Knicks needs to understand something up front: He's not going to pocket $60 million over five years, leave the Knicks more or less as he found them and then blind the fans with the reflection off his 11 rings won in Chicago and Los Angeles while blaming the easiest of targets, James Dolan, in yet another of his books, this one titled "Sacred Oops."

No, he's not making that kind of escape from New York. Fans and news media members have been dumping on Dolan for so long, and rightfully so, that this tired game needs a new player. And Tuesday morning, when it was lights, camera, Jackson at Madison Square Garden, that player was a lot more conspicuous than he ever was as a moderately useful reserve on Red Holzman's bench.

Ending a championship drought dating back to Holzman, Jackson said, would be "a capstone on a remarkable career that I've had."

There's no arguing that. If Jackson the executive can do what Pat Riley the coach could not -- win it all in New York -- he would belong on the lead float in the parade and would likely go down as the most beloved sporting figure in these parts since Joe Torre.

Only if it goes the other way, if Jackson fails to build the kind of team Red Auerbach always said he'd never built, his legacy will take a direct and lasting hit. Suddenly Jackson's endgame would look just like the Knicks' roster looked to him from afar -- clumsy.

Autonomy? "Jim knew I wouldn't come without it," Jackson said.

Abdication? "Willingly and gratefully, yeah," Dolan said.

The beleaguered owner has made these pledges before, most recently to Donnie Walsh, the executive who didn't want to do the Carmelo Anthony deal with Denver that Dolan made him do. Who knows what Steve Mills was promised before he was brought back to the Garden for a six-month term that sort of ended Tuesday, when Mills lost his senior title and was left to join his bosses on a stage with a mike in his hand and no questions to field.

But this much is clear: Jackson has been given more power than Mills, Walsh and even Isiah Thomas before them.

"I am by no means an expert in basketball," Dolan said in a rare admission during a rarer meeting with the press. The owner would go on to say that he is "a little out of my element when it comes to the team," and that he's felt obliged in the past to do more meddling than he's wanted to do.

Even if that is a laughable claim, Dolan was doing everything he could to distance himself from the potential disaster to come.

"Phil will be in charge of all basketball decisions," he said.

Yes he will. And man, does he have some basketball decisions to make.

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