New York Knicks president Phil Jackson has begun to remove the dead weight in Gotham, but according to the NY Daily News, owner James Dolan is already (and predictably) meddling — this despite some very public promises not to:
According to a team source, Jackson is looking to remove several staff members, which is commonplace when a new administration takes over, but Dolan opposes removing certain employees.
According to the source, Dolan’s reaction to Jackson’s request was to tell the 11-time NBA championship coach to simply focus his attention on building a winning team. To say that “minor friction,” as one Garden source called it, can be classified as Jackson’s honeymoon with Dolan being over may be stretching it a bit.
But at the very least it proves that Dolan — surprise, surprise wasn’t being entirely truthful last month when he claimed he was “willingly and gratefully” giving up control of the basketball decisions to Jackson, the Hall of Fame coach.
“In his role as president Phil will be in charge of all basketball decisions,” Dolan said after signing Jackson to a five-year, $60 million contract.
Of course, Dolan also lied about giving Donnie Walsh full autonomy when he hijacked the Carmelo Anthony trade negotiations from the long-time and respected basketball executive. Although Walsh wanted to acquire Anthony, his advice to Dolan was to wait until the trading deadline to strike a better deal with the Denver Nuggets. Dolan ignored Walsh and eventually gave the Nuggets a promising young center in Timofey Mozgov and the Knicks’ 2014 first-round pick, which is now a lottery pick.
Dolan made Jackson the richest executive in North American team sports history in part for his championship pedigree. And yet, Dolan is interfering with Jackson’s sincere effort to change the toxic culture of an organization that has won one playoff series in 14 years.
It is unclear which employees Jackson wants to remove, but with the entire coaching staff fired on Monday, it is most likely personnel with the medical staff, front office and/or the media relations staff. Bleacher Report reported that Steve Mills, Allan Houston and Mark Warkentien could all be reassigned or possibly dismissed.
Among the coaches fired on Monday was long-time assistant Herb Williams, who is well-liked in the organization. Within one hour, there was a report that the organization would “encourage” the next head coach to keep Williams. It was an odd story, which read like it was planted by someone other than Jackson, because why would Jackson fire Williams and then encourage the next coach to rehire him?
Dolan’s interest in keeping certain employees could be something as innocent as wanting to remain loyal to workers with whom he has grown close. The more plausible theory is that Dolan doesn’t want to fully cede control of the team and that certain employees who serve as pseudo organizational spies are too valuable to lose.