Probably not. Only the money might be too good, and the potential rewards too great, for Jackson to say no. He's already won 11 NBA titles as a head coach, two more than Auerbach, so there's nothing left to conquer on that front. If he can follow Pat Riley's path and win a title or two as an executive, and win in the city that hasn't seen a Knicks championship since he played for Red Holzman in 1973, Jackson would wrap the perfect ribbon around the perfect career.
Riley couldn't win it all in New York with a better roster than the "clumsy" one now in place, and maybe Jackson sees an opportunity in that truth. Or maybe Auerbach's bygone tweaks about those ready-made champs in Chicago and Los Angeles finally drove Jackson to prove that he didn't need Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, or Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, to land in a parade, and that he could get there with the flawed franchise player that is Carmelo Anthony.
But no matter the motive, Jackson should understand something: If he's handed complete control of the Knicks, he can't treat it like the easy-money consulting gig he had with the Detroit Pistons. This wouldn't be Jerry West advising the Golden State Warriors, or the late Chuck Daly advising the Memphis Grizzlies. This would be the toughest NBA job Jackson ever accepted, and one that would make his refereeing of the Kobe-Shaq hostilities feel like a walk in Central Park.
He can't mail it in, or Skype it in, and his friend Jordan could tell him all about that. A couple of years ago, with Jordan an established absentee owner and with his Bobcats about to finish a shortened season at 7-59, a newspaper headline in his adopted hometown, Chicago, called him "a disgrace" for seemingly turning up everywhere but Charlotte, N.C.
Jackson has to know that he can't have it both ways here, that he can't take the power and the cash and not the never-ending obligations that come with it. The lord of the rings can't lord over the Knicks from a faraway beach or ranch, doing whatever it is that Zen Masters do.
Jackson has to move to New York, and start grinding 24/7, for the Knicks to have any shot of emerging as a legitimate contender in two or three years. And really, if he has no intention of doing that, he should let the Knicks go scramble for another savior they can prop up for the fans who are mobilizing against them.
Yes, Jackson is known for doing what Jackson wants to do. When Garden and Knicks executive Dave Checketts secretly courted him in 1999, Jackson was told to show up alone to a meeting at Checketts' Connecticut home. The blue-chip recruit showed up with his agent, Todd Musburger, instead.
Jackson didn't take any Knicks job then, but sure seems a lot more likely to take one now. As long as he understands the terms of engagement, no problem. Phil Jackson, rookie executive, is a gamble worth taking in New York.
As long as he decides to live and work in, you know, New York.