- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Embattled coach Mike Woodson says Phil Jackson will "enhance" the New York Knicks once Jackson is hired to help run the team's front office.
"I have a great deal of respect for Phil and what he's done over his coaching and his playing days in our league. He's been extremely successful," Woodson said Thursday in an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM's "The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show."
"And if the Knicks are entertaining that, the guy's got a great basketball mind for the game. So I mean, it's all good."
A league source has told ESPN that Jackson and the Knicks are expected to finalize a deal that will give the legendary former coach control of the club's front office by the end of this week. An official announcement might not come until next week, the source said.
Woodson did not want to discuss Jackson's potential role with the Knicks in detail. He declined to address how much the organization has kept him informed of the proceedings, but he was highly complimentary of Jackson, who won 11 NBA titles as a coach and two as a Knicks player.
"At the end of the day we know it's out there, and like I said I've got a great deal of respect for Phil, and if the Knicks decide to go that route I think he can't do nothing but enhance the organization," Woodson said. "But my focus right now is strictly on coaching and trying to figure out our team and try to get us into this playoffs."
The Knicks (26-40) have won five straight and are three games behind eighth-place Atlanta for the eight and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.
It's unclear if Woodson will be the coach next season, regardless of whether Jackson is running the team. There's been widespread speculation that the Knicks will fire Woodson after the season and look for a new coach this summer. Woodson is under contract through next season. Jackson, if and when he is hired, may want to bring in his own coach.
Woodson said on Thursday that he'd like the opportunity to discuss his future with Jackson once the former Bulls and Lakers coach officially joins the Knicks.
"If that time comes, if and when that time comes, I would just love the chance to sit with him and talk basketball," Woodson said. "He's a basketball guy, I'm a basketball guy. This is 30 years I've spent in this league, so that's what we'll do. But until that happens, my focus is strictly on trying to get this team in the playoffs. That's it."
Carmelo Anthony, the league's second-leading scorer, said Wednesday he doesn't think Jackson's presence with the Knicks would have an impact on his impending free agency.
"I don't think it'll have any effect on me, just as far as what I'm thinking or my decision or anything like that," Anthony said. "Like I said, I haven't talked to Phil yet, just to get his insight on a lot of things -- what's his plan, what's his future plan -- because everything's in his hands now."
Ex-Knick Charles Oakley, who has played for and against Jackson, predicts that Jackson will be a "great" addition to the team.
"He's someone with a brand, an ex-Knicks player, 11 championships -- he's got he whole resume," Oakley said in a phone interview. "Having him is like taking a test and already having the answers. You can't go wrong when his hand is involved in what you're trying to do."
Oakley, though, thinks that owner James Dolan, who has a history of getting involved in his executive's basketball decisions, needs to give Jackson the "power" to shape the Knicks' roster the way he sees fit.
"I think (Dolan) convinced Phil to come here and then to go back on what you said, it's going to look bad on Dolan's end because Phil is a guy who's got a lot of credibility and I think that the people in New York, they want something positive to happen," Oakley said.
Mike Woodson thinks Phil Jackson would "enhance" the New York Knicks when Jackson is hired to help run the team's front office.