This past Wednesday was a good day to be a Knicks fan.
I don’t remember the last time I actually felt or thought that way.
Oh yeah, that’s right, I remember now.
It was the day the Knicks hired Phil Jackson. He was supposed to build something special. He was supposed to stabilize the franchise and build a winner. As it turned out, he was just the next chapter of embarrassment. Selling hope, cashing in and leaving the fan base disappointed as the rest of the NBA literally laughed at the once-proud franchise.
When Knicks owner James Dolan decided to part ways with Jackson as team president, he made a fan base exuberant and turned himself from goat to hero with one bold decision.
A decision that you did not think was coming when everyone put their heads to the pillow on Tuesday night, but there was the news early Wednesday morning.
With this decision, Dolan is actually in the good graces of Knicks fans. That is a monumental leap after everything that has defined the Dolan ownership era with the Knicks. He is in good graces now, but that does not mean it is a predictor of things to come.
There is no question that Phil Jackson was out of his lane as an executive. It just did not work. His lack of work ethic and ego prevented any success. The 80-166 record does not paint Jackson in the kindest light, but his three-plus years with the Knicks will not be the defining time of a legendary NBA career.
There were many reasons why Jackson ultimately failed. His hubris and lack of personal accountability were certainly an issue. His inability to adjust and change his communication style as president as compared to being head coach played into his demise as well.
There will continue to be stories that leak out over the coming days and weeks about what was the breaking point for Dolan. Melo buyout? Porzingis trade possibility? Strange interviews? Fan outrage over the Porzingis trade talk? Who knows and who cares at this point?
The good thing is that he is gone. It was not working and you would have just compounded the mistake by continuing with him. “Ask Phil” was not going to get it done moving forward.
But as much as every Knicks fan celebrated last week, the problem does remain. Dolan still owns the Knicks even after making the correct decision this past week. Under his ownership, there has been very little success as his franchise has been marred by one embarrassing story after the next. Dolan remains.
Will he stay out of the business of basketball decisions under a new Knicks president as he did under Jackson? If that is the case, then as long as Dolan makes the right hire the Knicks will be on a much better path toward long-term success. But that is a monumental “if.”
The timing of the firing was certainly strange, which would point to some sort of breaking point between Jackson and Dolan. To allow Jackson to draft guard Frank Ntilikina with the eighth-overall selection because he is the best fit for the triangle offense and then fire him less than a week later does not make much sense. The timing was illogical, the decision was logical.
Dolan in a strange way regained the trust of the Knicks fan base with the decision to part ways with Jackson. The ball is now in his court. This road can go in a couple of different directions. Does he hire another basketball executive that has the necessary experience and work ethic to do this job properly and stay out of the way? No question, that path would be the best course of action.
Will it be Dolan’s?
We have heard the early names: Isiah Thomas, John Calipari, Masai Ujiri and David Griffin. Now it is up to Dolan on what he will do next. He has garnered the favor of the Knicks faithful. What does he do next, expand it or crush it?
Here is hoping that last Wednesday represents a turning point for the Knicks franchise and James Dolan. I would not bet on it, but as a lifelong Knicks fan, I am crossing my fingers that Dolan has woken up and can see the errors of his past decisions.
Last Wednesday was a good day, but let’s not forget this is still the Knicks.