Phil Jackson new Knicks president

Updated: March 19, 2014, 10:55 AM ET
By Ian Begley | ESPNNewYork.com

NEW YORK -- On his first day on the job, Knicks president Phil Jackson said he looks forward to delivering a winner to New York.

"There's no better place to win than New York City," said Jackson, who was officially announced as the team's president at a news conference Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

"I can think of no better opportunity than the opportunities that I've had, three of the biggest cities and basketball franchises [in] Chicago, Los Angeles and now to come back where I started. It's a great feeling."

He confirmed that his contract is for five years. Financial terms weren't released, but sources told ESPN.com last week that he will receive $12 million annually.

Jackson and general manager Steve Mills will report directly to team owner James Dolan, the Knicks said. But Dolan and Jackson both noted Tuesday that Jackson will have autonomy, with Dolan adding that he will cede power to Jackson "willingly and gratefully."

Jackson has won a record 11 NBA titles as a coach and two as a Knicks forward. His 229 postseason wins and 13 NBA Finals appearances are more than the Knicks have in their 68-season history (186 wins, eight Finals berths), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

"I am by no means an expert in basketball," Dolan said. "I'm a fan, but my expertise lies in managing companies and new businesses. So I think I'm a little out of my element when it comes to the team. I've found myself in a position where I've needed to be more a part of the decision-making for a while. It wasn't something necessarily that I wanted to do. But as chairman of the company, I felt obligated to do it.

"I'm happy now that we have the team of Phil and Steve to do that, and my whole job here now is supporting them to win a championship."

Later, in an interview on ESPN 98.7 FM's "The Michael Kay Show," Dolan made it clear that Jackson would have full autonomy. 

"Phil Jackson is in charge of all basketball decisions. Period," the owner said.

The Knicks haven't won a title since Jackson captured his last as a player in 1973. On Tuesday, Jackson was asked if he was worried that failing to deliver a title with the Knicks would have a negative impact on his reputation.

"I think that this is an opportunity, and that's what I look at it as, not as a possible failure chance," the Hall of Fame coach said. "It's just a wonderful opportunity to do something that I love, and that's be with a basketball team, hopefully create a team that loves each other and plays with each other."

[+] EnlargeDolan, Jackson
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesKnicks owner Jim Dolan, left, said Tuesday he will "willingly and gratefully" cede all power to new team president Phil Jackson. GM Steve Mills is at right.

The Knicks' courtship of Jackson began in December when Dolan met Jackson at a party hosted by music mogul Irving Azoff. Dolan said he initially talked to Jackson about coaching the team but the conversation quickly moved to Jackson taking a front-office position.

Jackson, who said he's stayed away from coaching due in part to his physical condition (he said he's had five surgeries in recent years), grew intrigued with the possibility of running the team as he continued discussions with Dolan. Jackson added that at no point did he get into serious discussions with the Lakers about joining their organization.

Jackson takes over a team that has performed well below Dolan's expectations this season. New York is 13 games under .500 and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, though the team has won six in a row.

Jackson will face several tough decisions in his first offseason as president, the biggest of which is what to do with free agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony.

The team's new president backed the All-Star forward Tuesday.

"There's no doubt about Carmelo being one of the top scorers in the league, maybe the best individual isolation player in the game," Jackson said. "I have no problems with committing to saying Carmelo is in the future plans."

Anthony, who has said he plans to opt out of the final year of his contract this summer, can sign a deal with the Knicks that is one year longer and worth $33 million more than any pact he can sign with another team. He has said that his priority is to re-sign with the Knicks, but he would like to sit down with Jackson and discuss the team's plans before making a decision.

Jackson also will likely have to hire a coach in the offseason. There is widespread speculation that Mike Woodson will be let go at the end of the season. Jackson disciples such as Steve Kerr, Brian Shaw and Kurt Rambis are considered potential candidates.

Regarding Woodson, Jackson said the two will have discussions about the coach's future in the coming weeks but made no guarantees that he'll be back next season.

One thing Dolan would guarantee for next season: Season-ticket prices won't be raised, he said.

Jackson's fiancee, Lakers president Jeanie Buss, knew Jackson was ready for a new challenge.

"It was clear that Phil wanted to go back to work," Buss said in an interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet. "He'd spoken to different organizations. Me personally I like having Phil around. But there was no role for him with the Lakers. He's too good of a basketball mind to sit at home in a rocking chair playing solitaire."

One person outside of New York especially happy to see Jackson's return to the NBA is Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban.

"My bucket boy is back," Cuban said jokingly, bringing up his favorite term for Jackson during the verbal sparring sessions when Jackson coached the Lakers.

Cuban added: "It's great just because of the legacy, the pedigree, the questions. Can he do it again? He's won everywhere he's gone, including his first stop in New York, so can he do it again?"

Tuesday's announcement brought Jackson back to the city where his playing career started.

He recalled his first trip into New York as a player in 1967. Coach Red Holzman and his wife, Selma, drove Jackson from Kennedy Airport to Manhattan. The trip was interrupted when someone on a highway overpass threw a rock that cracked Holzman's windshield.

"Red looked up and said, New York isn't the easiest place to live," Jackson said with a laugh. "But if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. That is where the phrase started. I swear. So we are going to make it here."

Information from ESPN's Ramona Shelburne and ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon was used in this report.

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