It's a good day to be a Knicks fan

Phil Jackson, who won two titles with the Knicks in the 1970s as a player, discusses his new role as president of basketball operations at his introductory press conference at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, March 18, 2014. (Credit: Newsday / Chris Ware and Casey Musarra)

The folks at the Garden always have known how to stage a let's-get-excited news conference, dating to decades before Phil Jackson was a Knick the first time around. (Tex Rickard held some doozies back in the 1920s.)

Most recently, there have been turns in the spotlight for Carmelo Anthony (2011), Amar'e Stoudemire (2010) and Donnie Walsh in a 2008 event that bore some unmistakable resemblances to Tuesday's introduction of Jackson.

But even the arrival of Walsh as team president back in those pre-Melo, pre-transformed-Garden, pre-widespread-use-of-Twitter days could not match the vibe of positivity that emerged from the Zen Master's unveiling.

Everyone said and did the right things before an audience of several hundred journalists, cameras, Knicks greats and assorted interesting guests.

The VIP list included the musician Glenn Frey and Eagles (the band, not the football team) manager Irving Azoff, who brought Jackson and Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan together at a holiday party at his home last December.

All of this was beamed to a national television audience because, well, how could it not be?

It was an event of the sort we specialize in around here, even when our sports teams mostly have been flops for the past year or so.

Could this all go wrong? Yes, of course. But there also are many reasons it could go right, enough of them that it was a good day to be a Knicks fan in a season that has had far too few of them.

Jackson projected the calm and confident demeanor for which he is famous and promised to change not only the team's on-court fortunes, but its culture.

That includes its relationship with the New York-area media. A warm glow descended upon the reporters in the house when Jackson said this:

"We're going to have an open relationship -- we're going to have a good one. We need your support, and the fans need a positive atmosphere to come and enjoy the game and the players need a positive atmosphere in which to play."

Dolan did his part by taking questions during the news conference, then twice more on the radio, a rarity but in this case a show of good faith.

He also spent the day making a compelling case not only that he willingly handed full basketball authority to Jackson but that he did so eagerly, saying he "is by no means an expert in basketball" and has many other corporate duties to tend to.

That is not to say he has any plans to stop writing checks to finance a turnaround. There was no mistaking that the long, losing winter has worn on the owner.

"It has been a very disappointing year for our organization and fans, and while I know we are all frustrated, no one is more frustrated than I am," he said. "None of us expected to be where we are. The responsibility for the season falls on all of us, including myself. I want to say thank you to our fans for sticking with us through these difficult times."

Later, Dolan even expressed gratitude for the passion of fans planning to protest the Knicks' management before Wednesday night's game against the Pacers.

Only in New York.

Speaking of which, Jackson played to his audience with a long-ago tale of Red Holzman picking him up at Kennedy Airport in 1967 in a new Impala convertible, only to have someone on a Van Wyck overpass throw a rock that cracked the windshield.

"He looked up and he said, 'You know, New York's not the easiest place to live,' " Jackson recalled. "But if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.

"That's where the phrase started. I swear. So we are going to make it here. We ask for your support and appreciate it."

For one chilly late-winter day in 2014, there was no reason not to believe him.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

NFL videos

Vote

Grade Phil Jackson's offseason moves so far:

A B C D F

advertisement | advertise on newsday