If there's something James Dolan seems to have finally figured out from his tenure as chairman of the New York Knicks, it's this: It's a lot easier to get people to pay their cable bills every month than it is to build a winning franchise in the NBA.
Not that the paranoid owner with the Cablevision cash hasn't tried. He's employed a lot of lame schemes to get a winning team at Madison Square Garden, only to watch them disintegrate.
His latest is a $60 million Hail Mary that might actually have a chance of succeeding, assuming Dolan can keep his promise to stay out of basketball operations. Hiring Phil Jackson as president of the franchise isn't the worst idea in the world, though Knicks fans would surely rather see Jackson coaching.
At the very least it buys Dolan some time. Jackson is now the public face of the franchise and he'll get a grace period to make sure Carmelo Anthony is happy and Mike Woodson can still coach.
And, really, what does he have to lose? The Zen Master certainly can't be any worse than Isiah Thomas, a Dolan experiment who nearly ruined what was left of the once proud franchise. At least Jackson comes with some beefy credentials that include 11 NBA titles and a very specific idea on how to run an offense.
"When you have a chance to get Phil Jackson to run your team, you do it -- plain and simple," Dolan said. "Welcome home, Phil."
Those were words that Knicks fans love to hear. But this was even better:
"By no means am I an expert in basketball," Dolan said in an admission both stunning and belatedly welcome.
That Jackson was lured to a front-office position with the Knicks wasn't terribly surprising given the dysfunction that now seems to afflict the Buss family in Los Angeles. The Lakers could have given Jackson what he wanted — should have given him what he wanted — but Kobe Bryant will tell you that the heirs of Jerry Buss can't seem to make a decision that makes sense.
So he heads across the country for New York even while his heart is still in Southern California. Jackson says he will spend significant time in New York, though it's not hard to imagine him keeping an eye on the Knicks from the beach house he and his fiancee, Lakers president Jeanie Buss, share on the West Coast — or even in the owner's suite at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
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