Phil Jackson, seen here earlier this month, had a rare chat with the media on Friday.
LOS ANGELES – The triangle Phil Jackson envisions for the Knicks next season would still feature Carmelo Anthony and it would also include Jackson remaining as team president and, yes, Kurt Rambis returning as head coach.
Garden Chairman James Dolan may have other ideas but Jackson gave Rambis a strong endorsement on Friday and hinted that he would prefer to see his good friend and long-time aide have the interim tag removed from his job title.
“I think he’s perfectly capable of doing that,” Jackson said when asked if he wants Rambis to be coaching the Knicks. “We’ve talked many times over the past four or five years about the obvious record that is created behind his coaching in Minnesota and that puts a black mark on his coaching ability at first glance.
“But he has a way of handling players. He’s relaxed, yet he has the ability to keep them focused on the important parts of it. He’s a defensive-oriented guy. I had him as my defensive coordinator for my teams in 2007, ’08 and ’09. And I think he has a real good handle on that part. So we’ll see how they go.”
Rambis entered Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers with a 4-8 record since replacing Derek Fisher last month. In his previous head coaching job, Rambis went 32-132 for the rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves.
Jackson, speaking publicly for only the second time since training camp, gave no indication if he would start a coaching search after the season. On the contrary, he is encouraged with how the team has played under Rambis and it has always been Jackson’s preference to have a coach in place that runs the triangle offense.
Dolan would have to sign off on Jackson’s choice for head coach and there have been reports that Dolan, who did not want Jackson to hire Steve Kerr two years ago, would not approve the hiring of either Rambis or another Jackson disciple, Brian Shaw.
That could create a dilemma for both sides since Jackson made it known on Friday that he has no intentions of stepping down as president. When asked if he is committed to “being here for the next five years” Jackson joked, “Well, I’m in L.A. right now.”
“The energy that I have is directed toward turning this team around and it’s taken my full effort and so far it’s been a challenge,” he added. “So I’m still in it and I’m in it to win it so to speak.”
Phil plans on having Carmelo Anthony and Kurt Rambis as key figures for Knicks next season.
Jackson confirmed that Anthony is also in it for the long haul. They met within the past three days and Jackson described Anthony as “engaged.”
“We went through all the things,” Jackson said. “He sees the potential that we have. He asked questions about where we’re going. I’ve told him all the details. Sometimes you have to solicit things out of Carmelo. In my conversation I didn’t. He came out and asked questions. He’s engaged and that’s important.”
Jackson added that Anthony controls his own future because of the no-trade clause in his contract. Anthony, however, has maintained for weeks that he has every intention of staying in New York.
Jackson is not scouting any college games this week; the Knicks currently don’t have a first or second round draft pick this June. The Knicks traded their 2016 first round pick to Toronto in the Andrea Bargnani deal. In fact, he made light of the Knicks draft status when he said that one of the reasons he wants the Knicks to finish with a good record is because “we don’t want Toronto to have a good lottery pick.”
Jackson believes that the Knicks will be major players in free agency this summer, but he provided a telling answer when he was asked about the need to upgrade at the point guard position. In the triangle offense, Jackson’s teams in Chicago and Los Angeles didn’t have a ball dominant point guard. Of course, it helps when you have Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant in the backcourt.
So while Jackson said it is important to have a penetrating point guard, he reminded reporters that his “two-guard format” was successful with the Bulls and Lakers even though he conveniently never mentioned the impact Jordan or Bryant had on those respective clubs.
“I think we caught a lot of people in the league by surprise with the way we played so it works and we know it works,” Jackson said. “There’s been success in a number of places. My idea of chasing a point guard where it becomes an obsession isn’t necessary. It’s not necessary. We can play the game without it but you still need to have good performance (from the guards).”