Knicks owner James Dolan says team president Phil Jackson has his full support, that he won’t interfere if Jackson wants to trade Carmelo Anthony and that he will honor the full five years of Jackson’s agreement.
During an interview on “The Michael Kay Show’’ on ESPN Radio on Friday, Dolan said he will not get involved in any basketball decisions because he gave Jackson complete control of the department when he hired him three years ago. He would not comment on Jackson’s performance.
“I signed a contract with Phil Jackson, the man who has more championship rings, as far as I know, than anybody else,” Dolan said. “He was the best guy we thought we could find to run the New York Knicks. The agreement didn’t say you have to have this amount of wins by this time or anything of the sort.
“I literally turned over the entire basketball operations to Phil and [general manager] Steve Mills. That is where I am at. Whether I like the results or don’t like the results, I am going to honor that agreement all the way to the end. It’s not over yet. My hope is that the team will become much, much better and Phil will be successful. As he’s had all along the way, he has my support and the resources that he needs to do it.”
After losing to the Nuggets, 131-123, on Friday night, the Knicks are 77 games under .500 (71-148) in the two-plus seasons in which Jackson has been president. They are 22-33 this season and have lost 20 of their last 26 games. But Dolan said he won’t judge Jackson until the five years are up.
“I won’t comment on that,” Dolan said. “From the position I am in, Phil doesn’t need to hear from me, especially through the radio, about the job. It’s a five-year deal, guys. Maybe at the end of five years we’ll see. But right now, while he’s still in the middle of the deal and he’s doing that job, I’m staying out.”
There is a mutual opt-out in Jackson’s contract after this season. Dolan said he won’t exercise it and doesn’t believe Jackson will, either. “I have gotten no indications that he’s planning on doing anything but staying through the entire length of contract,” Dolan said.
It’s no secret that Jackson is trying to move Anthony by the Feb. 23 trade deadline. Anthony has the final say because he has a no-trade clause in his contract.
Dolan, who helped broker the deal to get Anthony from the Nuggets, likes the forward, but he said he won’t stand in Jackson’s way if he finds a trade for him. “I’m not going to go there,’’ he said. “That’s meddling with Phil and that’s telling him how to do his job, and I’m not going to do it.’’
Jackson created a firestorm this week with a tweet that appeared to say he agreed with the premise of a column that was critical of Anthony. The column detailed how Jackson wasn’t able to convert him into a winning player.
In the tweet, Jackson said he “learned you don’t change the spot on a leopard.” Two days later, Jackson tweeted that it was “misunderstood” and made a peace offering. Asked about that, Dolan said Jackson has the freedom to communicate the way he wants based on the contract that he signed.
“Part of his agreement is that he completely controls his own public relations, his own fan relations,” Dolan said. “It is totally in his control.”
Anthony said he hasn’t talked to Jackson and didn’t want to talk about his tweets. “Why won’t you all talk to him, man?” he said. “Why don’t you ask him about his tweet? You asking me about his tweet. Please, I don’t know what he tweets. That’s not my concern at this point.”
Anthony also said he had no reaction to Dolan’s statement that he will not fire Jackson. “This is his organization,” he said. “This is his team. He makes those decisions. I don’t think we should have an opinion about that.”
When Dolan was asked about speculation that he pushed Jackson to re-sign Anthony in 2014 and that he wouldn’t allow Jackson to promote last season’s interim coach, Kurt Rambis, to head coach this season, he denied both.
“A lot of people said, ‘You won’t be able to stay away, you’re going to meddle,’ ” Dolan said. “I think everybody recognizes now that I have stayed away and I have let Phil absolutely run the franchise and I intend to do that for the length of the agreement. How can I ever get anybody else to come work for us if I didn’t honor the agreement?”
Dolan said he knows people want him to step in now because of how Jackson is treating Anthony, but he said he won’t.
“I am going to honor my agreement,” Dolan said. “It doesn’t matter whether I think he is right or whether he’s wrong. I am going to honor my agreement because that’s what you do.
“He’s got at least a little more than two years left and has every right to continue on with that agreement for the full time, and let’s hope that he is successful.”