Phil Jackson’s tenure with the New York Knicks was newsworthy for all the wrong reasons, but it came to an end on Wednesday.

Owner James Dolan and Jackson came to an agreement and would part ways just days before the start of free agency. This move is for the better. Back in 2014, the Knicks lured Jackson into their front office with the hopes that he could bring them back to their glory days. Dolan’s first mistake was the contract. About a month into signing his five-year, $60 million deal, he fired Mike Woodson, who had gone 37-45 in 2013-14, and hired Derek Fisher, who was Jackson’s pick because of his knowledge of the triangle offense.

Jackson’s relationship with the triangle is similar to that of your first love. All the memories you shared make it almost impossible to fully part ways. Sometimes, you get back together even though it’s detrimental to everyone involved. If the Knicks were a romance novel, you have your plot right there.

Also Read: Scottie Pippen Blames Jackson For Knicks’ Woes

If I had to assume, Jackson unwavering need to institute his antiquated system is because he won 11 championships with it. It’s important to note that the personnel was just as important. The triangle played a role in winning, but so did Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, among countless other role players. The Knicks didn’t have that. Instead, they had Carmelo Anthony, who was still in his prime and a legitimate superstar. His 2014 season saw him average 27.4 points on 45.2 percent shooting and a career-high 8.1 rebounds. That summer, he was going to be a free agent.

Anthony wanted to re-sign with the Knicks. And Jackson was more than willing to give him a deal that paid out $124 million over five years with a no-trade clause. It was perfect. And then it wasn’t. Jackson spent the rest of the summer signing players who never worked out: Jason Smith, Travis Wear, Orlando Sanchez and D.J. Mbenga, just to name a few. The icing on the cake was the injury to Anthony. He played just 40 games by the end of the 2014-15 season, and New York floundered to a 17-65 record, the worst season in franchise history. If Melo were healthy, we’re having a different conversation. Then, on Jan. 5, 2015, Jackson shipped Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a three-team deal where the Knicks received Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk, Lance Thomas and a 2019 second-round pick. It was a dark bunch of months in the Big Apple.

The 2015 NBA Draft came along, and the Knicks had flopped all the way to the fourth overall pick. This selection would undoubtedly be the future of the organization and Phil couldn’t afford to muck things up. With that pick, he selected Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-3 Latvian with guard skills in a stretch forward’s body, and he’s worked out pretty well over the last two years. He’s still unproven, but he’s laid a great foundation for the team to build around. Jackson went on another spending binge that summer and inked Arron Afflalo, Robin Lopez, Derrick Williams and Kyle O’Quinn to multi-year deals. They weren’t marquee guys but would provide a solid supporting cast to Anthony and Porzingis. More importantly, it gave Jackson bodies to run the triangle.

Also Read: Let’s Say A Prayer For Porzingis

It didn’t work. Everyone except Phil was fed up with the archaic attempt to teach an offense that wouldn’t be effective during a time where the NBA was changing. Jackson didn’t care. He made a few more deals, but nothing that broke the bank.

Living in New York and knowing a bunch of Knicks fans, I got to experience first-hand how unhappy people were with the handling of the franchise. (I also got to deliver countless jokes, and that is, by far, the best part.) People weren’t ready to riot, but the team was falling short of expectations despite being a few years removed from a playoff berth. However, things began to look up. In his second year, Fisher had coached the Knicks to a 23-31 record. Fisher then got fired, and Kurt Rambis was hired as his interim. ESPN reported that Jackson’s made that move because Fisher had struggled “transitioning from the role of player to coach.” Really? A second-year coach struggling? I had no idea this could happen. Fisher jumped right into head coaching unlike so many great coaches before him, and even Jackson didn’t take over the Bulls until he finished five seasons as an assistant.

Phil took some of the blame, which was nice. He said he could’ve been better when communicating with Fisher, but that’s a skill that Jackson hasn’t had during his time with the Knicks. Additionally, he said that there were mixed reactions from the rest of the coaching staff. I can see why.

As days went on, reports surfaced from Woj, Frank Isola, Stefan Bondy and Charley Rosen that all had the same thesis: Derek Fisher wasn’t running the triangle enough. Isola’s stands out the most, to me, because he spoke about Fisher running pick-and-roll in close games, and that set is so common now that it’s like breathing to a lot of players. Additionally, Rosen wrote about Fisher’s “stubborn insistence” not to run the triangle. That’s irony in its purest form.

I do want to touch on Fisher having some off-court issues of his own, with the most noteworthy being his feud with Matt Barnes. However, that allegedly played no part in his firing.

Without a doubt, the most maddening part is that Rambis came in and closed out the season 9-19. His winning percentage was .321; Fisher’s was .426.

The Knicks hired Jeff Hornacek last June and kept Rambis on the staff so he could focus on improving their defense. (Spoiler alert: it still sucks.)

It was a big summer for Jackson last year. Maybe, just maybe, if he finagled a few deals his team would return to the playoffs. His first move was trading for Derrick Rose. The package shipped Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant and Robin Lopez to Chicago while the Knicks received Rose, Just Holiday and a second-round pick in the 2017 draft. Very few fans want to acknowledge that Rose had his best season since 2012, and the former MVP averaged 18.0 points and 4.4 assists a night while shooting 47.1 percent from the field. He’s not the point guard of the future. He’s not someone who can run the triangle. But all the hate is unnecessary, and it’s because a lot of people have lofty expectations for a guy who won’t ever reach them. (Oh, and his defense is terrible. Sorry, Derrick, I’m trying my best, but I can’t gloss over your play on that end. Then again, Rose has never been a good defender, but the Bulls did a great job of hiding him.)

For the safety of my Twitter mentions, I don’t want to spend much time siding with Rose. He’s a good player who can produce in the right system. However, he does want to come back and is willing to take a pay cut. And it’s safe to say the fans don’t want him back — especially after he went AWOL for a game earlier this year and fell off the map for an entire night.

One thing a lot of people will agree on is that Jackson signing Joakim Noah to a four-year, $72 million deal was his worst move. It’s not even close, actually. Noah’s a shell of the player he once was, and Phil gave him that contract after he played in just 29 games last season. The injuries continued this year, and the former All-Star suited up with the Knicks just 46 times this year and averaged 8.8 rebounds and 5.0 points. Courtney Lee was the final (relatively) big signing and Jackson brought him on as a three-and-D guy who could help develop an identity. He didn’t get much notoriety, but Lee put up 10.8 points a night while shooting 40.1 percent from three.

The Knicks, on paper, were a playoff team. And they won 31 games.

It was this past year where the off-court issues began to reach a tipping point and when Jackson became his least tolerable.

Carmelo Anthony — who has handled all of these situations with remarkable class — became Jackson’s punching bag. He went out of his way to subtweet Anthony, saying how you “can’t change the spots on a leopard.” Jackson then attacked Melo last December by, essentially, calling him a ball hog. I wished it stopped there, but Phil became rather ambiguous about Anthony’s future with the Knicks. Initially, Carmelo wasn’t going to waive his no-trade clause. As time went on and tensions thickened, Anthony changed his mind but only if he liked the team that would be taking him on. In the latest development, Jackson said that Melo would be “better off somewhere else” but hasn’t made any attempts to put him somewhere else. No trade talks ever gained traction and, although the team was talking about a potential buyout, Jackson was reportedly against it. It’s unfathomable how you can believe your best player is better served elsewhere but then decide not to move him. Frankly, it seems like Jackson is doing everything out of spite; like when a toddler being told “no” by his parents.

Carmelo Anthony wasn’t the only one, though. Even Porzingis, the future of the organization, couldn’t escape Phil’s wrath. It’s come full circle because the best thing Jackson did with the Knicks was draft KP, and now he seems not to care all that much.

Feb 12, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills look on during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 12, 2017; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks president Phil Jackson and general manager Steve Mills look on during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

It started when Porzingis skipped their exit meeting because he was upset with the dysfunction and toxicity of the franchise. This was wrong — I’ll admit that. But what else is wrong is that Jackson, along with the rest of the Knicks front office, made no attempts to communicate with their budding star. Keep in mind Porzingis is still a kid compared to his executives. That’s not an excuse, but it makes sense why he would act as he did. However, Jackson alienating Porzingis doesn’t help, like, at all. It only compounded when he confirmed that KP was tradeable if the right deal came up. The asking price was a lot, and it’s okay for him to be on the block, but Jackson’s swung and missed when he said that he’s looking toward the future of the team.

Porzingis is going to be 22-years-old going into next season. He is the future. The ideal response would’ve been, “he’s not untouchable, and we’d only move him if the right package came along.” But what about Jackson’s tenure has been ideal?

In three short years, the New York Knicks have become the laughing stock of the NBA. Not only have they been terrible on the court, but everything else makes them the worst-run franchise in the NBA — and that means they supplanted the Sacramento Kings. Moving on from Phil Jackson is the right start, but the team isn’t going to return to greatness as long as James Dolan still owns the team.

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