It was three years ago that these words were uttered — much to the delight of all Knicks fans:
“We hope to take the team forward in bringing the process forward toward winning a championship. This would be a pinnacle, a capstone, on the remarkable career that I’ve had.”
Eleven-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson said that, among other things, when he was introduced as the Knicks’ president of basketball operations on March 18, 2014.
“If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” Jackson said that day. “We are going to make it here.”
Jackson hasn’t made it yet, and it’s fair to question if he ever will. With two years left on his deal, he must make major strides this offseason for the Knicks to even become a legitimate contender.
The Knicks are well on their way to their fourth straight year of missing the playoffs and the third with teams that Jackson built or rebuilt. And another rebuild awaits.
Hired with less than one month left in 2013-14 and after the trade deadline, Jackson didn’t make any moves to impact that team, which finished 37-45 and missed the playoffs by one game. But his fingerprints are on everything that has happened since.
On the three-year anniversary of Jackson’s hiring, here’s a look back at his presidency:
The Knicks are 76-157 overall — a .326 winning percentage — under Jackson. They’ve clinched their fourth straight losing season and need to win six of their last 13 games to avoid losing at least 50 games in all three seasons under Jackson’s watch.
Since the start of the 2014-15 season, 52 players have played for the Knicks, 33 brought in by Jackson. Carmelo Anthony is the only player remaining from the team Jackson inherited.
2014-15: He brought back Anthony, Cole Aldrich, Andrea Bargnani, Tim Hardaway Jr., Amar’e Stoudemire, Pablo Prigioni, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. But Jackson changed the roster in the summer, and again at midseason.
In all, 20 different players played for the Knicks, including 12 who weren’t on the previous team: Quincy Acy, Lou Amundson, Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Cleanthony Early, Langston Galloway, Shane Larkin, Ricky Ledo, Alexey Shved, Jason Smith, Lance Thomas and Travis Wear.
2015-16: There were more wholesale changes as six players returned (Amundson, Anthony, Calderon, Early, Galloway and Thomas) and 10 new faces joined the Knicks: Arron Afflalo, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Jimmer Fredette, Jerian Grant, Robin Lopez, Kyle O’Quinn, Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Seraphin, Sasha Vujacic and Derrick Williams.
2016-17: Jackson overhauled the roster again. Only five players returned (Anthony, O’Quinn, Porzingis, Thomas and Vujacic). He brought in 11 new players overall: Ron Baker, Willy Hernangomez, Justin Holiday, Brandon Jennings, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah, Maurice Ndour, Marshall Plumlee, Chasson Randle and Derrick Rose.
Three, not including Mike Woodson, who was the coach when Jackson arrived and was fired a week after the season ended. It wasn’t because he didn’t run the triangle. But it’s clear that Jackson wants the triangle run often and the right way.
- Woodson: Holdover was fired after compiling a 109-79 record in two seasons-plus.
- Derek Fisher was Jackson’s first hire and was fired after a season and a half with a 40-96 record. He started to go away from the triangle. Kurt Rambis went 9-19 as interim coach last season and ran a lot of triangle.
- Jeff Hornacek is 27-42 this season. He ran “triangle aspects” until the Knicks returned from the All-Star break; the triangle then was re-emphasized to the point that Jackson recently ran a system tutorial for the guards. Hornacek said players will be evaluated for the remainder of the season on whether they fit in the triangle.
Jackson wanted Steve Kerr to be his first head coach. Things might have gone differently for the Knicks if he ultimately had taken the job. Instead, he (wisely) chose the Warriors over the Knicks.
- Traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Calderon, Dalembert, Larkin, Wayne Ellington and two second-round picks.
- Sent Ellington and Jeremy Tyler to Sacramento for Acy and Travis Outlaw.
- Traded Outlaw and a 2019 second-round pick to Philadelphia for Arnett Moultrie. (Waived Moultrie.)
In a three-team trade, sent J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavaliers for Amundson, Alex Kirk and a 2019 second-round pick and received Thomas from Oklahoma City. (Waived Amundson, Kirk and Thomas.)
- Sent Prigioni to Houston for Shved and two second-round picks.
- As part of a three-team trade, the Knicks sent Hardaway to Atlanta for the draft rights to Grant.
- Traded two future second-rounders to the 76ers for the draft rights to Hernangomez.
- Sent cash to the Magic in a sign-and-trade for O’Quinn. Orlando also has the right to swap second-round picks in 2019.
- Traded Calderon, Grant and Lopez to Chicago for Rose, Holiday and a 2017 second-round pick.
- Re-signed Anthony to a five-year, $124-million deal that included a no-trade clause and 15 percent trade kicker. Free agents: Smith, Wear, Galloway, Thomas, Amundson, Ledo.
- Free agents: Lopez, Afflalo, Williams, Seraphin and Vujacic. Re-signed Thomas and Amundson.
- Free agents: Noah, Lee, Jennings, Kuzminskas, Ndour, Plumlee, Baker, Randle. Re-signed Thomas.
- Lamar Odom was signed in 2014 and Tony Wroten was signed in 2016. Both were waived before playing for the Knicks.
- Also waived or bought out: Dalembert (2015), Stoudemire (2015), Jennings (2017).
- Cleanthony Early, 34th
- Antetokounmpo, 51st
(Both picks were acquired from Dallas.)
- Porzingis, fourth.
THE GOOD AND BAD
Drafting Porzingis and getting a pick to acquire Hernangomez are two of Jackson’s best moves — OK, his two best. But many more have backfired.
Jackson should have traded Chandler during the season. He probably would have gotten more from him. He got little for Shumpert and Smith. He overpaid for Noah (four years, $72 million) when the Knicks would have been better off with Lopez. But they needed Lopez to get Rose, who ended up being a questionable pickup because he doesn’t fit the triangle.
Speaking of the triangle (again), Jackson has bypassed coaches because he wants guys he knows or will run his system. That hasn’t worked well thus far in his presidency.