- Last Updated: 6:40 AM, May 14, 2012
- Posted: 12:16 AM, May 13, 2012
Despite his eccentric methods, Knicks owner James Dolan always seemed bent on breaking the Knicks championship drought, now at 39 years. Often, Dolan went about it the wrong way, but money never was an object.
That is why close Dolan watchers are stunned the Knicks owner didn’t at least put a phone call out to Playa del Rey to gauge if Phil Jackson had interest in returning to the Knicks, where he owns a championship ring from their last title in 1973, when he was a reserve power forward. Jackson also owns a ring from the Knicks only other title — 1969 — but was on the sidelines with a back injury.
We will never know how Dolan’s conversation would have gone, whether Jackson would have felt too constricted in the Garden’s corporate structure where free spirit and speaking your mind is considered breaking corporate policy. All we know is Jackson has won an NBA record 11 championships as a head coach to go along with his pair as a Knick.
Lakers executive Jeanie Buss, Jackson’s longtime girlfriend, was on Los Angeles radio Friday, saying Jackson “has his energy back.’’ Some took it as Jeanie sending a message across the country to Dolan.
Not true. Contacted Saturday, Jeanie said she was just answering a question on Phil’s health. The Zen Master had knee replacement surgery 5 ½ weeks ago, and she contends he is fit.
Jeanie confirmed there has been no contact from the Knicks, not even feelers. And that’s OK.
“He’s walking better than he has in years and has his energy back and I have no idea if he even wants to coach again,’’ Jeanie said. “He’s lost weight. I didn’t mean for anyone to confuse that to mean he was asking for the Knicks job or trying to return to the Lakers.’’
Would he accept the Knicks job? She’s unsure.
Nevertheless, there have been indications Jackson would not have hung up the phone if the Knicks called.
Jackson could have felt the roster or corporate climate wasn’t right, that he would want the control he couldn’t have. He doesn’t know general manager Glen Grunwald well nor Carmelo Anthony, who can be fickle with coaches. Dolan could have sensed a marriage with Jackson was destined to run aground akin to the Larry Brown disaster. After investing $850 million into the Garden’s continuing transformation without city funding, he didn’t have $50 million to risk again.
But it would have been nice if they talked. Instead, Dolan’s Jackson inaction makes it look like he is content with being the Atlanta Hawks — except with diehard fans and nightly sellouts.
Dolan this week is even ready to officially hire the Hawks’ former coach, Mike Woodson, on what could be a three-year deal — the time left on the contracts of their starry trio of Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony.
The Hawks are a nice, talented team, have made the playoffs for five seasons after an eight-year drought. They boast three marquee players in Joe Johnson Al Horford and Josh Smith. But with their first-round flameout to the Celtics Thursday, the Hawks have been eliminated twice in the first round, three times in the second round.
That could well be Dolan’s Knicks, who were eliminated in the first round for the second straight season, going 1-8. So Dolan would be playing it safe bringing back Woodson based on an 18-6 finish. It’s not a crime. It’s just not the swinging-for-the-fences move.
It is also another indication — as Dolan’s supporters say — of his loyalty to employees who do good work. Woodson did good, just not great.
The Knicks will be a marketing bonanza next season, sell out every game — with Linsanity and The Melo-’Mare Show. But if the Knicks are an oncourt flop, maybe next offseason Dolan will dial Phil’s number. He may actually say yes.Follow @NYPostsports