What Phil Jackson thought of the Knicks 2 years ago

Christian Petersen

The former Lakers and Bulls coach wasn't inclined to take a position in New York.

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The New York Knicks are set to announce Phil Jackson's return to the franchise on Tuesday, but the journey to signing him apparently involved changing his mind about the condition of the team and its roster. In an interview with HBO's Real Sports in June of 2012, Jackson told Andrea Kremer that he would not take a job with the Knicks if offered.

Jackson, 68, has long been rumored in connection with New York. When Mike D'Antoni left the organization as head coach in May of 2012, murmurs of hiring Jackson as his replacement were loud and plenty.

In the interview with Kremer, just a month after D'Antoni's release, Jackson denied that the Knicks were a good fit for him. Specifically, he called out Amare Stoudemire not being a good fit for the rest of the team, and Carmelo Anthony's tendency to act as a ball-stopper on offense saying, "It's a bit of a clumsy team."

New York's issues are long and well-documented. Between the lack of talent, coherency and direction, the Knicks are bumbling along with a record of 26-40. Despite their $88.5 million cap hit, New York just can't seem to get it together as they hover outside eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Phil Jackson is unlikely to be the savior, but at least he appears to have had a change of heart. Getting Jackson is undoubtedly some kind of surface-level positive in the sense he is another recognizable name, and the Knicks love to get recognizable names. For the time being, New York will take it any way they can get it.

Here's the relevant part of the transcript between Kremer and Jackson:

Kremer VO#3: We recently visited Jackson at his remote summer retreat in Montana…a property he’s owned for forty years. We wanted to find out if Jackson has let go of the game. A public man for all his adult life, Jackson comes to Montana to be private.

If his (replacement) knee continues to improve, Jackson at 66, will physically be in better shape than he’s been in several years. So whenever a big-time NBA job is open these days, Jackson’s name is the first one mentioned. First up were the Knicks. Where he started his career in 1967. But surprisingly…

PHIL JACKSON: They never called.  And I kinda appreciate that.  Because if they called, it would open the door and they didn't wanna open the door.

ANDREA KREMER They didn't wanna open the door or you didn't wanna open the door?

PHIL JACKSON: Well, I mean, I wasn't gonna take the job, that's for sure.  But…

ANDREA KREMER: You wouldn't have taken the Knick job?

PHIL JACKSON: No.  I wouldn't take…

ANDREA KREMER: Why?  This is—the ties to this job go back as far as your whole career.

PHIL JACKSON: Yeah, it's great.  It's great.

ANDREA KREMER: And you've always said New York is special to you.

PHIL JACKSON:  New York is special.

ANDREA KREMER: Why do you dismiss it then, possibility, even?

PHIL JACKSON: Well, it just-- there's just too much work that has to be done with that team.  You know?  It's just not quite-- it's clumsy.  It's a little bit of a clumsy team.  It's not, you know.—

ANDREA KREMER: What's "clumsy" mean?

PHIL JACKSON: Well, they don't fit together well.   Stoudemire doesn't fit together well with Carmelo.  Stoudemire's really good player.  But he's gotta play in a certain system and a way.  Carmelo has to be a better passer. And the ball can’t stop every time it hits his hands. They need to have someone come in that can kinda blend that group together.

ANDREA KREMER: But wouldn't you have been the perfect person to come in and blend all that talent together?  You sort of have a good history of that.

PHIL JACKSON Yeah.  Well, it didn't happen.

Update: Here's the video h/t to @Greg_Domino

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