The Phil Jackson era in New York is officially over.
After reports surfaced late Tuesday night that the Knicks owner James Dolan was “weighing” Jackson’s future, the team released a statement Wednesday morning announcing Jackson’s departure:
MSG Executive Chairman Jim Dolan and Phil Jackson announced today that, after discussing the future of the New York Knicks, they have mutually agreed to part company. Mr. Jackson is leaving his post as President of Basketball Operations, effective immediately.
“After careful thought and consideration, we mutually agreed that the Knicks will be going in a different direction,” said Mr. Dolan. “Phil Jackson is one of the most celebrated and successful individuals in the history of the NBA. His legacy in the game of basketball is unmatched. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the Knicks as both a player and an executive.
“While we are currently evaluating how best to move forward regarding the leadership of the organization, I will not be involved in the operation of the team,” continued Mr. Dolan. “Steve Mills, the team’s general manager, will run the day-to-day business of the organization over the short term. Tim Leiweke, who brings tremendous expertise and experience in sports franchise management from both Toronto and Los Angeles and is our partner in the Oak View Group, will advise and work with Steve on an interim basis to help develop a go-forward plan.”
Jackson also issued a statement:
“The New York Knicks will always hold a special place in my heart,” Jackson said. “This team and this town launched my NBA career. I will forever be indebted to them. I am grateful to Mr. Dolan for giving me the opportunity to return here.
“I had hoped, of course, to bring another NBA championship to the Garden. As someone who treasures winning, I am deeply disappointed that we weren’t able to do that. New York fans deserve nothing less. I wish them and the Knicks organization all the best – today and always.”
Dolan hired Jackson in the latter portion of the 2013-2014 season, giving him a 5-year, $60 million deal. In three full seasons under Jackson’s tutelage, New York went a combined 80-166 — missing the playoffs in each season.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Knicks are looking at Toronto Raptor’s president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri as Jackson’s replacement. Prior to joining the Raptors, Ujiri was the general manager of the Denver Nuggets, where he orchestrated the trade of Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks in February 2011.
Jackson, for his part, has been trying to move on from Anthony in recent months — publicly declaring his desire to trade the superstar forward. But it was Jackson who re-signed Anthony to a five-year, $124 million deal in 2014 — handing him a no-trade clause.
The Knicks have had three head coaches under Jackson — if you don’t count lame duck Mike Woodson in 2014 — all three of which have been encouraged to run the triangle offense. Derek Fisher, who played for Jackson when he coached the Los Angeles Lakers, was the initial hire. Over the course of one and a half seasons, Fisher went a combined 40-96 and was fired in 2016. Kurt Rambis took over as the interim coach and finished out the season, 9-19.
One of the more positive facets of Jackson’s tenure was the drafting of Kristaps Porzingis with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. The 7’3″ Latvian has averaged 16.1 ppg, 7.3 rpb and 1.9 blocks over the course of two seasons — providing Knicks fans with some hope moving forward.
However, after Porzingis skipped his exit meeting at the end of the 2016-2017 campaign — frustrated with the lack of direction and stability within the franchise, Jackson began to field trade calls for the 21-year-old forward. The asking price was understandably high and ultimately nothing materialized.