Phil Jackson, the basketball legend who helped the New York Knicks win the championship in 1970 and 1973, was greeted with a "Welcome Home Phil" sign Tuesday at a Madison Square Garden news conference announcing his new executive contract with the team.
Jackson's new five-year contract will pay him at least $12 million annually, reports The Associated Press
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After playing his final game with the Knicks on April 23, 1978, Jackson became the league's most successful coach by winning 11 championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls.
"This is the best place to play basketball," Jackson said at the news conference, according to the AP.
Jackson will have a large runway to operate even while Steve Mills remains as general manager, according to Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan, who said he is "willingly and gratefully" stepping back to make room at the top, the AP reported.
The fate of current coach Mike Woodson, 72-34 with the Knicks before this season, remains to be seen. Jackson himself hasn't coached since 2011, and hasn't expressed interest in doing so since.
"If Jackson decides to move in a new direction, and all indications are that he will, a coaching search would be fascinating," writes the New York Times
. "If Jackson truly wants to change the culture, from the top down, it would make sense for him to have a coach who operates as a surrogate, with the same messages and the same principles."
From the front office, he will face many other obstacles standing in the way of the Knicks' success (27-40 so far this season), including Carmelo Anthony's expiring contract, frustrated fans, and owner Dolan's proclivity to churn through executives.
"Jackson could be one of the sharpest basketball minds of his generation or any other, but he will not have the financial flexibility to comb the free-agent market until 2015, when the contracts of Stoudemire, Chandler, and Bargnani come off the books," writes The New York Times
, speaking to perhaps the most important factor in the equation, the roster.
"At the same time, Jackson could be the team’s biggest asset in its search for more talent. On Monday, Anthony told reporters that Jackson would be a magnet for top free agents," the Times concluded.
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