In what hoops universe would it be considered conducive to the common good to have 11-time league coaching champion Phil Jackson relegated to biting his tongue when it comes to voicing his thoughts about the direction of any NBA franchise?
That tells all you need to know about the depths of the New York Knicks’ dysfunction and the challenge The Zen Master has set himself up for in even daring to attempt to rescue one of the league’s most storied but recently desolate organizations.
Yeah, it’s true it was Jackson who hired rookie coach Derek Fisher, and by virtue of that action you would think the two would not only be joined at hip in terms of their respective philosophies but also share some level of commonality in the way they choose to articulate those views.
Yet, oddly enough, Jackson looked on in stoned silence earlier this month as the Knicks opened training camp, at times appearing so confounded he was literally moved to head for the showers, just so as to not disrupt Fisher’s flow.
“Sitting there a couple of hours, you attentively stay in tune with what’s going on out there,’’ Jackson told reporters. “But there are times you want to get up and want to say something and you resist. Let them feel their way out there. I just got up and walked it out without talking.’’
In that, the Knicks might be doing their fan base an even bigger disservice than they were on the day they talked the 69-year-old Jackson into taking on the role of organizational savior. It all makes you wonder why management would take on such a monumental task of salesmanship just to have Jackson now irreverently silence himself?
“It helps all of us,’’ Fisher said of basically having Jackson around to be seen but not heard. “Coaches, players, staff is positively impacted whenever there’s great leadership around. Whether offering advice or not, when you’re around great leaders, great people, it’s a positive thing. I think we’ve all benefited.’’
But Phil Jackson is clearly capable of so much more, and the Knicks undeniably are in desperate need of all he’s proven himself capable of providing. Treading as tepidly as he has, Jackson nonetheless has labored hard behind the scenes to put his tenements in place. Not only is Fisher a decorated disciple of his Triangle Offense, so too are top assistants Kurt Rambis and Jim Cleamons.
“Derek did a good job including the staff,’’ Jackson said of Fisher’s first week run. “Guys had their voice. The players were attentive and enthusiastic. You never get everything done. The morale of the team, what we’re trying to establish as a direction we want to go. The guys got that message loud and clear.”
But you figure it could have been so much more powerful if the Zen Master himself had been allowed to have more of a voice in it.