Are Knicks president Phil Jackson and owner James Dolan already at odds just a few weeks after joining forces in New York? The rumored tension centers on a New York Daily News report that Dolan is having trouble ceding his decision-making power.
Just one month into his role as Knicks president, Jackson has already clashed with Dolan, the chairman of Madison Square Garden, over personnel decisions, the Daily News has learned. According to a team source, Jackson is looking to remove several staff members, which is commonplace when a new administration takes over, but Dolan opposes removing certain employees.
According to the source, Dolan’s reaction to Jackson’s request was to tell the 11-time NBA championship coach to simply focus his attention on building a winning team. To say that “minor friction,” as one Garden source called it, can be classified as Jackson’s honeymoon with Dolan being over may be stretching it a bit.
It has been widely suggested (even by Dolan himself) that Jackson will have full control of basketball decisions. While this decision isn't a player or on-the-court matter, basketball staff would seemingly fall under Jackson's purview.
Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com reported that Jackson pushed back at the report on Wednesday.
"As far as Jim Dolan's promise or his premise when I took this job that's he's going to leave basketball decisions up to me, really, he's been loyal to that promise," Jackson said. "And going forward from last week through this week, just wanting to talk to [ex-Knicks coach] Mike [Woodson] when we were through talking to him, the staff -- it's all our decision. He's been very true to his word to this point."
In addition, Howard Beck of Bleacher Report sheds more light on the staff potentially in question:
CAA represents two key members of the front office, Allan Houston and Mark Warkentien, and has close ties to general manager Steve Mills. All three are likely to be cut loose or pushed into new roles.
Jackson, inexperienced as an executive, needs a seasoned general manager who shares his vision. That probably means a reassignment for Mills, who did little in his one season as the Knicks’ president and GM.
The same goes for Houston, a favorite of owner James L. Dolan who has been serving a front-office apprenticeship for six years but has gained little traction in NBA circles as a viable executive.
It would be easy enough to move Mills back to the business side, where he began his Garden career, and to leave Houston in charge of the Knicks’ D-League affiliate, a role he already has.
Warkentien is the Knicks’ most experienced (and most networked) basketball official. But with Jackson pursuing a thorough housecleaning, Warkentien is surely on his way out, too.
Jackson and Dolan are almost certain to have a bit of an odd working dynamic, especially given the personalities of the two men. Dolan was clear about his intentions to hand things over to Jackson. A relatively brisk walk-back of that policy would be both troubling and unsurprising, though, considering Dolan's history of perceived meddling.
Meanwhile, the stories surrounding the Knicks' impending coaching search -- ranging from rumors about Steve Kerr to Ron Harper's expectation that he'll interview for a position -- are sure to keep New York in the headlines in coming weeks. DOLAN: 'I am by no means an expert in basketball'