Phil Jackson, who won 11 NBA championships as a coach and is one of the league’s most admired figures, has agreed to return to the New York Knicks after three-plus decades to head the team’s front office. The Knicks are scheduled to hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Tuesday to announce his appointment as the team’s new president, according to a person in the NBA familiar with the discussions. A Knicks spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment. Jackson, 68, who was a part of the Knicks’ championship era as a player in the early 1970s, has unrivaled credentials as a coach: six titles with the Chicago Bulls, and five more with the Los Angeles Lakers. He has the highest winning percentage for a coach in league history (.704), along with the most playoff victories (229). He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007. As constructed, the Knicks are a collection of aging players and mismatched parts, with one superstar, Carmelo Anthony, who plans to opt out of his contract and explore free agency this summer. Mike Woodson, in his third season as the coach, could be on his way out.
The team has traded away scads of future draft picks. In other words, Jackson will need more than a hammer to fix the Knicks. He might need a backhoe. It is also unclear how much time Jackson will spend in New York and on the road engaged with the minutiae of management: scouting players, preparing for the draft, weighing the salary cap, examining advanced analytics. Running a team is not an easy job, and Jackson has a history of health concerns. In any case, it seems likely that the Knicks will supply him with a staff to do much of his legwork. More than anything, Jackson brings instant gravitas and credibility to a franchise sorely in need of some. James L. Dolan, Executive Chairman of The Madison Square Garden Company, has cycled through six coaches since 2004, obsessive in his quest for quick-fix solutions. He made another seemingly impulsive move on the eve of training camp in September, when he hired Steve Mills to replace Glen Grunwald as the team’s general manager. Now, with Jackson joining the Knicks, Mills is ceding his position heading the team’s basketball operations after less than five months. In another twist, it was Mills who initially met with Jackson to discuss a role with the team, according to a person in the NBA with knowledge of the discussions. Mills is expected to remain with the Knicks in a revised role.