History not on Phil Jackson's side

NBA Hall of Famers own spotty records after elevating to team executive

Updated: March 19, 2014, 11:29 PM ET
By Bradford Doolittle | ESPN Insider

Phil JacksonNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty ImagesPhil Jackson faces a mediocre track record for Hall of Famers taking over as team executives.

You have to hand it to the New York Knicks. James Dolan's decision to turn his basketball operations over to Phil Jackson is about as splashy as it gets in the NBA.

Too often over the past three decades, the Knicks have won an introductory news conference for a headline-grabbing move only to lose just about everything else thereafter. The decision to hire Jackson is a big hit with most Knicks fans, judging by online polls. The reaction among analysts, scouts and other insiders is a little more mixed, but more positive than not.

There is no doubting Jackson's résumé as a coach. His collection of 11 championship rings earned from the sideline is the ultimate argument-ender. And it's not just his on-court success. Jackson has crafted an aura about himself, as a philosopher, self-help guru and quasi-relationship counselor. He was a key role player on the last Knicks championship teams 40 years ago, and his return to the Big Apple has all the elements you look for in a good sports story.

The problem, of course, is that Jackson is 68 years old and has never before done the job he's just been promised $12 million per year to perform. The cynics among us might suggest that this makes Jackson's hire a quintessential Dolan-Knicks move.

That doesn't mean it won't work, and really there is nothing to lose from New York's perspective. If you're going to take a flier on an unproven executive, choosing the one with more rings than fingers is a solid way to go. While Jackson might not be around for the long haul, he can hopefully make over the Knicks' front-office culture in a positive way before heading into retirement for good. And since New York faces the short-term dilemma of retaining Carmelo Anthony, one could argue that challenge in itself justifies the splashy move of hiring Jackson.