There are two choices on the table.
Their is Phil Jackson’s guy, Kurt Rambis. Or there is Carmelo’s guy, Tom Thibodeau. At the end of the day, the question has to do with power and influence and privilege. Who is really running the Knicks? Who makes the decisions?
Ultimately, the decision winds up in Jim Dolan’s hands. He decides who wins this pissing contest because he is the owner of the team. Clearly, he is not in the Rambis camp, otherwise he’d be rubber stamping Jackson’s choice. With Dolan, it’s hard to say who is in his ear. It could be buddy Isiah or Steve Mills or the guy who delivers the mail. Dolan hates publicity that makes him look bad so whatever decision he comes to, rest assured, he is going to come out looking like the smart one. If he sides with Carmelo, then Dolan will look like a puppet but he’ll also be off the hook, letting Carmelo take all the blame if it blows up in his face. If he undermines Jackson, he’ll have a hard time finding a quality replacement once Jackson jumps ship.
Dolan knows the fans despise Kurt Rambis as a long term prospect. Rambis is average at best. He had Kevin Love and Love’s career took off after Rambis was fired. Rambis didn’t help his resume by losing over 130 games with the T-Wolves. The year after Rambis was fired, Rick Adleman won 9 more games than Rambis, then 14 more games, and 24 more games before Adelman’s wife became ill and he resigned. Rambis never got to 20 wins in a season. In Adleman’s last year in Minnesota, he reached 40 wins which put him and his team into a playoff fight. Fire Rambis and your team gets better, not worse.
There should be a rule: if you ever coached a NBA team and didn’t win 20 games, you are disqualified from being the Knicks coach.
Keeping Rambis as the coach keeps the triangle in tact. This makes most New Yorkers puke. Now that Kobe is just about retired, the last of the triangle royalty are gone from the NBA. Yes, Pau Gasol is lingering around somewhere, perhaps he’ll be in New York next season since he’s a Phil guy. But Pau is seen as a complimentary triangle piece, not the oil that greases the wheel. Bryant and Jordan did the heavy lifting.
Recently Bryant was asked about the triangle in relation to the Knicks and the Lakers star wasn’t exactly shouting hallelujah from the rooftops. If Phil coaches, yes. If he doesn’t, perhaps not.
“It depends on who is coaching that system. The system is not a coaching system. It’s a teaching system. It’s a philosophy. The reason why it worked for Phil is because the system was a mirror philosophy of his way of life, his Zen philosophy. If you have that, it’s easier to teach it. But if you don’t have that, you go out there thinking you are going to coach the triangle from a tactical perspective rather than a philosophical one, it’s not going to work.” (Kobe Bryant)
Bryant articulated what the NBA figured out a long time ago. Whether it was Jim Cleamons or Brian Shaw or Kurt Rambis, the triangle is a Phil Jackson appendage. You have to live it, not just teach it. Jackson’s blind spot is that he doesn’t see that. He loves it so much, is married to it through sickness and health, there is no perspective. But the Knicks don’t need the triangle.
The Knicks need a point guard. They need a shooting guard. They need some explosiveness up front. They need dribble hand-off schemes and versatile players that can dribble, pass, finish with contact and drain threes. They need toughness. Everyone is trying to fool themselves. This is a rebuild. The triangle doesn’t work in rebuilds. It works with skilled veterans of which the Knicks are in short supply.
So, really, as sad as it it is to admit, it comes down to Jim Dolan saving the Knicks from Phil Jackson. On one side of the ledger is disaster. On the other side, is a small flickering light at the end of the tunnel and Carmelo Anthony holding the flashlight.
photo via llananba