Did Phil Jackson Tarnish His Legacy?

James Dolan (left) and Phil Jackson (right) agreed to “part ways” Wednesday morning. Image courtesy of NY Daily News
Over the last few seasons, Phil Jackson went through a very bumpy road with the New York Knicks. Whether it was making horrible moves, pissing off star players or trying to force the organization into implementing an antiquated offense (which is funny because he drafted Frank Ntilikina strictly for this right before he got fired), it was safe to say that the Zen Master had lost his touch. In fact, one has to wonder if one of the greatest coaches in sports history did such a horrible job as an executive, that it may have actually tarnished his legacy. I plan on breaking down each general area of missteps during Jackson’s tenure before I state whether or not I believe his legacy is tarnished.

The Bad Moves:

Oh boy, where to even begin here. Yes, he took a gamble on Kristaps Porzingis that has already paid off in dividends. And sure, bringing in promising center Willy Hernangomez was a savvy move. However, despite these two great moves, Jackson has also made a slew of horrendous ones that more than outweigh the two nice ones.

Instead of listing all of them here, I’ll just list off the ones that I think are the ones that make no goddamn sense (because listing all the bad moves would be a full article within itself).

First, there’s the Joakim Noah signing. Good lord, that was a completely idiotic move the moment it happened. After a big 2013-14 (only the third time he played over 70 games), his performance has gone the way of a slip and slide. Take a look at some pivotal stats:

Joakim Noah from 2013-14 till 2015-16:

Year PPG TS% PER D-Win Shares Win Shares WS/48 Mins





















As you can see, Noah was declining (and declining hard) before he even hit free agency. This was the general consensus among basically anyone who had more than a remote interest in the NBA. However, Phil Jackson said F-it, and gave an injury-prone, declining center on the wrong side of thirty a 4 year deal for $72 million. To put that into perspective, that deal will take him till he’s 35 years old, and won’t expire until after the 2020 season! Is it the worst contract in the NBA? Maybe….. Oh, who am I kidding, of course it is!

This is a little discussed miscue, but even when Jackson signed Carmelo Anthony to that contract extension years back, that was a horrible idea at the time too. That’s because the Knicks had little talent to go around him, and had a future that looked grim (especially since they had a few future 1st round picks they owed to Denver from the Melo trade before Jackson came along!).

What put the icing on the cake was the no trade clause. If Melo didn’t have the no trade clause, he would’ve been a ex-Knick by now, and the team very well could have gotten some decent value for him despite being owed around $52 million the next two seasons. Now, the only two options are to buy him out (which would be a horrible idea in terms of getting value) or trading him for almost nothing to a team like the Houston Rockets.

There’s also the meh Courtney Lee deal, trading Tyson Chandler for scraps, and trading away Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith for scraps (he really liked trading decent to good value for nothing, didn’t he?) among others. In short, most of these deals Jackson made, whether it was a free agent signing that would be considered a success if it didn’t cripple the team, or making short-sided trades, they all added up to being a disaster.


Pissing off your Stars:

There’s one thing that you should never do, it’s piss off your star players. Whether it was constantly berating Melo, or being so ridiculous/incompetent that even Kristaps Porzingis wanted you out, this was truly something else.

As much as I am not the biggest Melo fan, the amount of disrespect he got from Phil Jackson is something that I have never seen in my life. It is truly baffling, and has hurt the Knicks reputation as a free agent destination so badly that it’ll take years to repair. I don’t know how he did it, but Phil Jackson basically turned playing in New York City of all places into something undesirable.

Even the Los Angeles Angels have stood by Albert Pujols‘ side during what has admittedly been a brutal season on the surface. The man’s had a bad year, and in the midst of a bad contract, and the team is still backing him. The fact that Jackson can’t even back someone who’s even still good is beyond me.

When Kristaps Porzingis skipped the team’s end of the year exit interview, it was because he was upset with how Jackson was handling the team. Jackson should have took that as a sign that Porzingis doesn’t want his career to be wasted by playing for a bad, cancerous franchise. However, the Zen Master instead saw that as such a blow to his ego that he was talking about trading Porzingis.

Porzingis’ likely reaction to Phil Jackson being fired. Image from Opencourt Basketball
No matter what Jackson was hoping to get in return, the return would have not been worth it simply because none of those players are worthy of having a team be built around them like Porzingis.

The ways that he managed to piss off his stars showcased how lazy, arrogant and incompetent Phil Jackson was as an executive.

Did Phil Jackson Tarnish His Legacy?

There have been many cases where players with great careers/legacies have ended in unflattering ways. However, this beats Ric Flair ending his wrestling career in TNA (after a touching WWE retirement) as perhaps the worst career ending thing I’ve ever seen.

Image courtesy of NBA.com
I believe that Jackson will always be known as one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports, but the fact that he will also be known as one of the worst executives does tarnish his legacy. That’s because as I basically just stated, he was as awful as an executive as he was great as a coach.

How much does this tarnish his legacy? That’s up for debate. Jackson probably doesn’t care though. He was in all honesty, just doing this to make some half hearted decisions, get a paycheck and go home. He was an ultimate opportunist, and now, he’s left the Knicks as a walking circus and in a heap.

All Stats and Info are courtesy of Basketball Reference and Spotrac


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