CHICAGO – Phil Jackson’s strategy during New York’s combine interviews was to silently observe as his trusted advisor Clarence Gaines taps into the prospect’s true personality.
“They have pretty much a set story that they’ve been taught,” Jackson said. “But we hope to knock them off base a little bit and see what their personalities are.”
Their success in this endeavor, according to Jackson, is a testament to Gaines, the vice president of personnel who worked with the Zen Master during his Chicago years and recommended Kristaps Porzingis to the Knicks.
Jackson pointed out Saturday that Gaines was dressed in a dashiki shirt, as if to suggest this meant he could expertly break down walls to pry loose important information.
“We’re pretty good. I have a master interview in Clarence Gaines,” Jackson said. “He even has his dashiki on.”
According to two players the Knicks interviewed – Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox and Kansas Frank Mason III – Jackson was mostly silent during their interviews. Mason III even provided a stone-faced impression.
“I think that’s just his personality,” Mason III said.
Still, the name and face still resonates.
“It was a cool experience to meet him finally,” Mason III said.
Fox, a projected top-5 pick, said the triangle offense was not part of their conversation.
“I was cool (meeting Jackson),” Fox said. “He was more staring at me, trying to feel me out, but I enjoyed all my interviews.”
Jackson said the young ages of the prospects these days lends itself to longer learning curves, both mentally and physically.
“It’s tough enough to come into this league at 20, 19 and expect to mature quickly enough,” he said. “I told Magic (Jackson) yesterday after we bumped into each other and had a little exchange: not too many kids can come into this game and win a championship like he did back in ’80. They’re just not that way. They’re not that mature.”
Outside of the mental aspect and on the court, Jackson said the Knicks — who own two second-round picks in addition to their lottery one — are looking at guards and wings at the draft because of their surplus of big men.
How their skillset fits into the triangle is also important.
“Some of it is about can guys do the operating skills that we look for. Guys that can catch-and-shoot, don’t have to put it on the floor everytime. Guys that have ability to pass, that’s really important. We look for reverse pivots a lot, so people mention that. I’m joking. What we like to do, we like to also see who is going to hold up in this game, 82 games, physically. It takes a lot. We’re going to try to judge that. That’s what you get coming here more than anything else in person.”