The Knicks reached into their storied past and brought back one of the greatest winners in NBA history, hoping he can help bring them their first championship since 1973.
Phil Jackson is returning to New York to run the Knicks’ basketball department, according to multiple league sources. He will be introduced at a news conference at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday morning.
The Knicks sent out an advisory Friday afternoon that they will “make a major announcement” Tuesday but did not mention Jackson by name.
Jackson, 68, has never run a front office before, but no one questions his basketball knowledge or ability to build a winning environment and team.
After spending 11 seasons with the Knicks and being part of their only two championship teams in 1970 and 1973, Jackson, nicknamed the Zen Master, guided the Bulls and Lakers to 13 NBA Finals and 11 titles.
A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, Jackson has a 1,155-485 record as a coach and ranks first in NBA history in most championships as a coach, regular-season winning percentage (.704), playoff wins (229) and postseason winning percentage (.688).
“I’m an avid fan of Phil Jackson,” Amar’e Stoudemire said. “He has a winning pedigree that’s unmatched. So to have that type of leadership around would be awesome.
“I would love to sit down and just pick his brain about basketball and what it takes to win. That’s going to be great for us.”
Jackson made his mark as a coach and with some of the greatest players in NBA history on his team — Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. But Jackson, who reportedly could make between $12 million and $15 million a year, will have his work cut out for him trying to rebuild the Knicks.
They have reached two NBA Finals since their glory years four decades ago and have won only one playoff series since 2000.
The Knicks are 26-40 and currently are 3 1/2 games out of the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot. Their best player, Carmelo Anthony, will be a free agent this summer and they have no first- or second-round picks in the June draft.
Jackson lives in California and it’s unclear how much time he will spend in New York. It’s also unclear whether he will look to make immediate changes with the roster this summer or clear the decks for 2015, when Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge could be available on the free-agent market.
The Knicks are set to have plenty of cap space that summer when the contracts of Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani expire. They could have even more if Anthony doesn’t re-sign.
Jackson likely will make changes in the basketball department and on the bench.
Steve Mills was hired four days before training camp to be the Knicks’ president and general manager, replacing Glen Grunwald. Mills is expected to remain with the organization, but his role will be different. Allan Houston is the assistant general manager and runs the Knicks’ D-League team, and Mark Warkentien is the director of player personnel.
Jackson might want to bring in his own general manager and a coach fluent in his vaunted triangle offense.