Phil Jackson’s three-year tenure as the Knicks’ president of basketball operations has ended abruptly on Wednesday.
The Knicks and Jackson have agreed to “part company,” effective immediately, according to an MSG press release. Owner James Dolan said the decision was reached via a mutual agreement. The news was first reported by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
"After careful thought and consideration, we mutually agreed that the Knicks will be going in a different direction," Dolan said in the release. "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. We wish him the best and thank him for his service to the Knicks as both a player and an executive.”
New York is pursuing Toronto Raptors executive Masai Ujiri as Jackson’s replacement, according to The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski. However, Ujiri recently received a promotion to president of the organization, so it’s hard to see him leaving the Raptors.
Dolan spent Tuesday weighing the future of Jackson and the two had a conversation about the decision late at night, according to The Vertical.
Dolan became uncertain about Jackson’s ability to carry out the job in recent weeks and became increasingly ready to act after Jackson publicly fielding trade offers for star on-the-rise Kristaps Porzingis.
The reported change of heart comes just months after Dolan picked up the final two years and $24 million on The Zen Master’s five-year contract as team president, and only days after Jackson drafted French point guard Frank Ntilikina eighth overall in the June 22 NBA Draft.
General manager Steve Mills will run the day-to-day in the interim, and former Raptors executive Tim Leiweke will advise him.
Jackson’s tenure in New York has been a nightmare since he took the helm in 2013.
He traded J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to Cleveland for conditional second-round picks. He traded Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to Dallas for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin, and a pair of second-rounders. He publicly blasted Carmelo Anthony twice through the media, admitting both times Anthony would be better off elsewhere.
When it couldn’t get any worse, he severed the relationship with Porzingis, the face of the franchise moving forward.
Jackson’s bulldozed the Knicks’ roster twice and built it to his liking. Nothing’s worked. In all, he’s amassed an 80-166 record as Knicks president while simultaneously squashing his standing with players both on the team and off.
Now Dolan has an opportunity to virtually wipe the slate clean and start fresh in a post-Jackson era.