ESPN analyst Mark Jackson minced no words in his evaluation of the job Phil Jackson’s done running the Knicks, calling him a “failure.”
“Phil Jackson is one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports, not just basketball, but in sports,” Jackson said. “And I can say that definitively. I can also look at the numbers and say as the guy running the New York Knicks, he’s done a poor job. When you look at the results, he’s been a failure thus far.”
There you have it. The Knicks might be light years from the NBA Finals, but the saddest soap opera in sports was still a talking point during Tuesday’s ESPN NBA Finals conference call with Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy.
Both ESPN broadcasters backed Carmelo Anthony in the embarrassing beef boiling between Jackson and the Knicks’ best player.
“Carmelo Anthony is an outstanding basketball player who has handled himself remarkably during these last couple of years,” Jackson said. “He negotiated a no-trade clause. I think you’re going about it the wrong way, trying to force him out. He has all the power and he’s taking full advantage of it.”
The Knicks have not made the playoffs in four years and Phil Jackson said recently Anthony might “be better off somewhere else and using his talent somewhere he can win or chase that championship.”
The spat between the two has simmered for months with Jackson appearing to go out of his way to criticize Anthony in the media.
All through the season of discontent, Anthony took the high road.
“I think Carmelo handled himself exceptionally well this year,” Van Gundy, a former Knicks coach, said. “I think it’s a difficult situation. I think he is, like all players who age, he’s lost a little athleticism, but he’s still a very effective player. I thought he stayed above the fray and I applaud him for that.”
“As far as their strategy, I don’t know what their strategy is,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s to try to make it uncomfortable for him so that he’s more willing to accept a trade. But certainly, Phil Jackson’s laid out his vision, that it would be better for Carmelo and better for the Knicks that he’s not there next year.
“Carmelo Anthony negotiated a no-trade clause in his contract, which Phil Jackson gave him and so I’m really interested to see does he want to be someplace that doesn’t want him, even though that may be his destination of choice, or is he willing now to accept a different environment, a more welcoming environment, for him to finish of his career with?”