Phil Jackson holds the title of Knicks president, but he called general manager Steve Mills the "future of the franchise" and says he's not receiving any input from or giving any to Liberty president Isiah Thomas.
In an interview with The New York Times, Jackson spoke about a range of topics, including Thomas' return. Jackson said he was consulted about it by Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan about a month before it happened, and had some concerns. Thomas and Madison Square Garden were accused in a 2006 sexual harassment case filed by former Knicks executive Anucha Browne Sanders.
"We said, 'Are you cognizant of the fact that this at least has the look of putting the fox in the henhouse?' " Jackson told the Times. "Is that a good term?
"In reviewing the history of it, we were told what the approach was by the Garden and how it went down. Jim said, 'If you have any suggestions that you want to come back with, I'm open.' And not being in that field, I didn't have any information. It's not where my head is at. So we're not giving them any advice, and it's going both ways."
Jackson said Thomas came into his office and they shook hands, and have "bumped into each other" at the team's practice facility.
"We talked about the playoffs, about his team," Jackson said. "He seems to be happy doing his job, and that's about it."
In Jackson's first full season as Knicks' president, the team was a franchise-worse 17-65.
A resident of Playa Del Rey, California, Jackson hinted that he might not be with the Knicks too long when he was asked about Mills representing them on the dais at last month's NBA Draft Lottery. Jackson signed a five-year deal in March 2014.
"I see Steve as the future of this franchise," he said. "I'm here for a time, and I'm trying to help turn it around the best way I can. But I can see Steve having a lasting tenure here, and this is one of the things that's good about our relationship, that we can grow from our teamwork."
Jackson, Mills and the rest of the Knicks' basketball department are planning for Thursday's draft. The Knicks have the No. 4 pick but may trade down if Karl-Anthony Towns, Jahlil Okafor or D'Angelo Russell don't fall to them.
"We have an open field and we're really exploring all our possibilities," Jackson said.
He acknowledged the Knicks need to add big men, which is something they could do in the draft and free agency. Jackson also talked about Carmelo Anthony's rehab from knee surgery, and said "everything is going along swimmingly."
Those words can't be used for Jackson's tenure.
He made some moves that in retrospect did not pan out -- notably trading Tyson Chandler to the Mavericks and J.R Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavaliers.
But Jackson said he has no regrets about accepting the position.
"I knew it was going to be a challenge," Jackson said. "We just didn't have any room to work last year. We knew that we were going to have to make big changes with the limitations that we had, being in a locked-in situation as far as the salary cap goes.
"That's why when I said recently that I didn't know why I wasn't given some votes for executive of the year, I wasn't kidding. I was really serious. We had a yeoman's job of having to get rid of a lot of fat on our roster to get to where we are. I saw Mitch Kupchak got a vote, so I know some people valued what the Lakers were doing obviously."
The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.