There are any number of topics on which we could all benefit from the wisdom of Michael Jordan -- the best brandy to pair with a fine cigar, perhaps, or how to read the greens on the top golf courses in Dubai. But turning to Jordan, the Charlotte Bobcats' owner, for guidance on building a successful NBA team would be a little bit like looking at his cleanly shaven head and asking for hair-grooming tips. With all due respect to His Airness, it hasn't exactly proved to be his area of expertise.
That's why it was hard not to raise an eyebrow upon reading that Jordan not only believes his old coach, new Knicks president Phil Jackson, will make an excellent first-time executive, but that he is also more than willing to help Jackson learn the front-office ropes.
"Phil is great," Jordan told ESPN.com. "He's very smart. He'll figure out pretty quickly what needs to get done, and he'll have plenty of guys in the league willing to help him, myself included."
A vote of confidence from Jordan is nice and all, but in order to know whether Jackson will be a successful team executive, Jordan would first have to know how to be a successful team executive, and his previous front-office work with the Wizards and current stint with the Bobcats provide little evidence that he does. He's made a couple of apparently smart hires recently in general manager Rich Cho and coach Steve Clifford, but their job is to sift through the rubble of rocky moves Jordan has made since he took over basketball operations in 2006. (He became majority owner in 2010.) It was under Jordan's watch that the Bobcats went 7-59 two years ago, the worst winning percentage (.106) in NBA history.
The Bobcats appear to be a lock to make the playoffs this season for the second time in his tenure, but that's partly because a sizable portion of the Eastern Conference decided to take a sabbatical. Squeezing in as the No. 7 seed, where they will probably do nothing more than give the Heat or Pacers a light workout in the first round, does not constitute the fulfilling of Jordan's plan, assuming he has one.
Then there's his disastrous tenure in Washington, where he drafted Kwame Brown No. 1 overall in 2001 and traded Rip Hamilton to the Pistons -- who, with the help of the up-and-coming shooting guard, would go on a long run of success that included a championship -- for Jerry Stackhouse, who struggled in two seasons with Washington. The hiring of Cho and Clifford might indicate that Jordan is finally getting the hang of this, but it's the equivalent of having a couple of 20-point games after years of being a bust.
In fairness, Jordan isn't under the illusion that he's been a front-office maestro. "None of us will be willing to give up great players or draft picks to [help Jackson]," he said. "That's the part of the job all of us have found pretty difficult, me included." Maybe the best advice he can offer Jackson is to look at most of what Jordan has done and do the opposite. Don't be an absentee boss. Don't hire buddies and yes-men as advisers. Understand that talent evaluation is a painstaking, time-consuming process, and a completely different skill than the one that made you famous.
Only time will tell whether Jackson gets all of that. Though his responses to questions on Tuesday about how much he will be in New York with the team were somewhat vague, it's clear that he will still spend a significant portion of time in Southern California, both for medical and family reasons. But Knicks fans can only hope that he won't feel the need to accept Jordan's offer of "help."
Maybe His Airness has a hidden agenda. He always had a way of tormenting the Knicks as a player, dashing Patrick Ewing's championship aspirations and saving some of his greatest performances for Madison Square Garden. Maybe MJ's plan is to lead Jackson down the same path of unwise decision-making that he himself followed, thereby sticking it to the Knicks one more time. If Jackson is smart, he won't accept any help from Jordan other than a box of expensive stogies. In Jordan's case, those who can't do, shouldn't teach.