As far as James Dolan is concerned, Knicks fans are stuck with Phil Jackson and all his decisions — the owner won’t interfere.
In rare public comments Friday afternoon while addressing Charles Oakley’s ban, Garden chairman Dolan said he will “honor” his deal with Jackson, a five-year contract that runs through the 2018-19 season.
Jackson has an opt-out clause in his contract he could exercise after this season. Dolan indicated he and the Knicks also have the option of opting out of the contract with Jackson, but he is “not going to exercise any opt-outs.” Dolan also said he’s “gotten no indications that (Jackson) is planning on doing anything but staying through the entire length of contract.”
“I am going to honor my agreement,” Dolan said on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN Radio. “It doesn’t matter whether I think he is right or whether he’s wrong. I am going to honor my agreement because that’s what you do. He’s got at least a little more than 2 years left and has every right to continue on with that agreement for the full time. And let’s hope that he is successful.”
The Knicks are 71-147 since Jackson took over as team president in 2014. Dolan said he ceded complete control of basketball operations to Jackson when he signed him. He claims there were no strings attached: he didn’t mandate that Jackson re-sign Carmelo Anthony, nor did he ever tell Jackson he couldn’t hire Kurt Rambis as head coach. Jackson eventually settled on Derek Fisher, who was fired less than two seasons later.
When asked about the fans who blame him for the Knicks’ losing, Dolan said, “Ask Phil,” before laughing awkwardly.
“I recognized some three-plus years ago that running a basketball operation, this is not my skillset, and the best thing I can do is to find the best guys,” Dolan said. “And everybody seemed to agree. In fact, a lot of people said you won’t be able to stay away, you’re going to meddle. I think everybody recognizes now that I have stayed away and I have let Phil absolutely run the franchise and I intend to do that for the length of the agreement.”
Jackson has rarely spoken to the media since taking over his position. On top of the losing, Jackson has also created a number of controversies — most notably his “posse” comments about LeBron James — while taking veiled shots at Anthony, his best player, on social media.
“I’m hearing from people, ‘You have to step in.’ No. No,” Dolan said when Jackson’s tweets were brought up. “It doesn’t work that way.
“Part of his agreement is that he completely controls his own public relations, his own fan relations. It is totally in his control.”
Dolan refused to comment on whether he wants to see Melo traded. Jackson has made it clear he no longer thinks he can win with Anthony.
“I’m not going to go there,” Dolan said. “That’s meddling with Phil and that’s telling him how to do his job and I’m not going to do it.”
Dolan also wouldn’t assess Jackson’s job performance.
“I won’t comment on that. From the position I am in, Phil doesn’t need to hear from me especially through the radio about the job,” Dolan said. “It’s a five-year deal guys. Maybe at the end of five years, we’ll see. But right now, while he’s still in the middle of the deal and he’s doing that job. I’m staying out.”