COACH CAN TURN MSG INTO A ZEN GARDENBy Jared Zwerling
If there's one coach who can best lead a superstar "big two," it's Phil Jackson. After Jackson took over the Chicago Bulls in 1989, Jerry Sloan's Utah Jazz with John Stockton and Karl Malone didn't win a championship, nor did Pat Riley's Los Angeles Lakers with Magic Johnson and James Worthy. Also, Rudy Tomjanovich's Houston Rockets with Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, and Gregg Popovich's San Antonio Spurs with Tim Duncan and David Robinson won only one title apiece.
But Jackson, with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, and then later with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal/Pau Gasol, won multiple titles, including three three-peats. Jackson is regarded as one of the greatest managers of talent in the history of sports, and with Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire in New York, he'd be the right man for the job.
Jackson has also shown he can rebuild a team very quickly, and the Knicks have rebuilding pieces: solid young players and cap flexibility in 2012 to go after a Chris Paul or a Dwight Howard. After leading the Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals in his first season, the next three all ended with championship banners. Years later, Jackson took a Lakers team that made the first round of the playoffs in 2006 to three straight NBA Finals appearances from 2008 to 2010, winning the crown twice.
There aren't too many head coaches who are as equally effective preaching offense as they do defense. While Mike D'Antoni and Jeff Van Gundy, for example, are polar opposites -- one values fast-paced offense; the other physical defense -- Jackson's teams have consistently ranked in the top 10 in offensive and defensive rating in his past 19 years manning the sideline. Scouts will tell you, "Points allowed doesn't tell the story; opposing field-goal percentage does," but Jackson's teams have succeeded in both categories.
I'll end with this: Back in 1990, Pippen remembers his teammates' response to the new triangle offense Jackson and assistant coach Tex Winter were incorporating. "None of us were very comfortable with it." But Jackson said, "In time, we're going to figure this out. It'll come along." And that's just what happened, as the Bulls went on to establish their dynasty.
There's only one person who can turn meditation into music on the court: the Zen Master.
PHIL ISN'T THE RIGHT FIT FOR THESE KNICKSBy Ian Begley
It's a delicious scenario for a New York Knicks fan base starving for an NBA title: Days after calling it a career, Phil Jackson pulls a 180, deciding to return to the bench to coach the Knicks to their first NBA championship since 1973.
The guy who helped win the last one comes home to lead the Knicks to their next one. Perfect.
On the surface, Jackson and the Knicks go together like mustard spread on a street-vendor sold pretzel.
But Donnie Walsh & Co. should consider the following before the Knicks break the bank to bring Jackson home:
Jackson has been at his best when coaching championship-caliber teams. The Knicks, as currently constituted, are not championship-caliber. We all know this. What we don't know is if Jackson, 65, has the patience to wait on Carmelo and the Knicks to coalesce into a title contender. I don't think he does.
And here's the other thing: Jackson's triangle offense is at its best when players share the ball, which is not exactly Carmelo Anthony's strong suit. Anthony is at his alpha-dog best when he has the freedom to dominate the ball. Don't believe me? Watch Game 2 of the Knicks-Celtics series again.
Furthermore, Carmelo and Amare Stoudemire -- the Knicks' two superstars -- may have trouble aligning under Jackson.
After all, Pippen was the unquestioned No. 2 to Jordan in Chicago. When they were at their best, Kobe deferred to Shaq in Los Angeles. So you have to consider this: Is Amare prepared to play the next three seasons as a sidekick to Carmelo? I doubt he signed a $100 million contract to do so.
And if Amare refuses to constantly defer to Carmelo, there aren't enough motivational books in the world (a Jackson special) to change a 28-year-old NBA superstar's mind.
If Phil comes to New York, he'll find that out the hard way.