The surprise news of the day in the NBA is that the New York Knicks have finally cut ties with Phil Jackson. The former championship winning head coach joined the team as President three seasons ago, and the Knicks have won 17, 32, and 31 games (respectively) in those seasons, missing the playoffs every year.
“Phil Jackson is one of the most celebrated and successful individuals in the history of the NBA. His legacy in the game of basketball is unmatched,” team owner James Dolan said in an official statement. “We wish him the best and thank him for his services to the Knicks as both a player and an executive.”
The rumors that Jackson often clashed with stars like Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Prozingis never really went away. Additionally, Jackson stubbornly refused to hire a coach who wouldn’t try to install his signature “Triangle Offense” offensive scheme.
The Knicks haven’t named a replacement, but Dolan did say that former Toronto Raptors executive Tim Leiweke would be acting as an adviser for general manager Steve Mills. That Canadian connection leads to a report from The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the Knicks are targeting Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri to replace Jackson in the New York front office.
Ujiri is largely credited with turning around the Raptors, trading away then-star player Rudy Gay and gathering a team that would become annual contenders in the Eastern Conference (although they have lost in the playoffs to the Cleveland Cavaliers in back-to-back seasons). Ujiri was named the NBA Executive of the Year in 2013 and signed a multi-year extension with the Raptors just a year ago. It’s unclear if he has any interest in tackling the mess that is the New York Knicks.