Phil Jackson thinks he is smarter than everyone else, and he has a trophy case the size of a three-car garage to back him up. In fact, Jackson is so smart, and so sure of himself, he probably thinks he can successfully run the New York Knicks from a space station in orbit.
Technology has made the world smaller than a basketball, right? So what's the problem? Why can't Jackson use email, Skype and the good ol' cell to communicate the principles of the triangle to the less enlightened and to explain why Zen philosophy reserves no sanctuary for the me-centric likes of J.R. Smith?
Because he has no idea how badly the Knicks are screwed up, that's why. Jackson might think he knows from watching games, from talking to confidants around the league, and from reading news accounts of the bizarro world of Jim Dolan, but he doesn't have a clue. And he wouldn't have a clue until he got up close and personal with a Madison Square Garden regime obsessed with defeating an opponent, the news media, that you won't find anywhere in your Eastern Conference standings.
So here's the real danger if you're a Knicks fan right now, living and dying on the report from ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that Jackson is leaning toward accepting the Knicks' offer of front-office employment: At 68, with a history of health concerns, Jackson might assume he'd be best served trying to solve the Knicks' overwhelming problems from a Southern California condo or a lakefront home in Montana.
New York is a cold, unforgiving place after all. It's no country for old men.
Especially old men who have built a Hall of Fame career on careful, sure-thing choices.
"He picks his spots," Red Auerbach once said of Jackson.
The Knicks can't allow Jackson to pick a distant spot now. They can't allow him to rule from afar no matter how desperate they are to bring back Carmelo Anthony , a free agent in July, and to change the conversation about this toxic dump of a season.
Go ahead and give Jackson every last nickel he demands; it's only money, Jim Dolan's money, and the wage won't even force the billionaire to cover a luxury-tax bill with it. Go ahead and give Jackson complete control over basketball operations, and let him tell Steve Mills, Allan Houston and Mark Warkentien what to do and where to go.
Only if the Knicks are willing to give the former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers head coach their everything, he has to return the favor. Much as Jackson might want to enjoy continued fun in the sun with his fiancée, Jeanie Buss, the Knicks need him in Manhattan, not Manhattan Beach. They need him to feel the pulse of their wayward franchise and, through face time and on-site interactions, they need him to evaluate the chemistry (or lack thereof) between player and player, player and coach, coach and staff, staff and media.
Jackson has to attack this monumental challenge from the inside out, not from the outside in. The Knicks aren't a rebuilding job; they're Pompeii. Bringing this basketball city back to life will require a meticulous, head-to-toe examination of the damaged infrastructure. Does Jackson really have the requisite desire and energy for that kind of project?