Phil Jackson talks Knicks, Carmelo Anthony

Phil Jackson is nearly four years removed from his failed tenure as president of the New York Knicks. It appears he has a long list of people to blame for that failure.

The former Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers coach opened up about his time at Madison Square Garden in an episode of “The Curious Leader” podcast, hosted by Coby Karl, one of Jackson’s former Lakers players and the son of George Karl.

The one-hour, 43-minute podcast touched on a number of topics, with the discussions compiled by Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, including the infamous Matt Barnes-Derek Fisher incident (“it was a distraction”), his eventual firing at the hands of James Dolan (“I think he actually did me a favor”) and his struggles with the triangle offense (“perhaps the best thing I could’ve done was just coach the team myself”). His most eyebrow-raising remark, however, came from his description of how the media treated him.

Specifically, Jackson compared his treatment to that of former President Donald Trump, another man known to have experienced business failures in New York City.

From the New York Daily News:

“I kind of understand Trump had to live with probably for his first 3 ½ years in office with the media,” Jackson said.

Jackson also reportedly complained of a media contingent that “was decidedly against the organization and they were looking for whatever they can do to throw aspersions.” Under Jackson, the Knicks’ best record was a 32-50 mark in the 2015-16 season. The team still hasn’t posted a winning record in the wake of his tenure.

Part of the reason for his Knicks failure, Jackson claimed, was Anthony’s lack of leadership:

“Carmelo, I think, wanted to be a leader, but I don’t think he completely knew how to be a leader as a player,” Jackson said. “And I think that the strength of his personality was intimidating to some of the coaches that were asked to coach the team. And so there wasn’t this compliance that has to happen between players and coaches. And as much I tried to interject my own beliefs, I don’t think you’re close enough to the ground in that situation to really be effective in dictating how things are going to be done.”

Jackson reportedly added that he wanted to trade Anthony, but complained of Anthony’s “lack of compliance” in declining to waive the no-trade clause that Jackson himself gave him at the start of the executive’s tenure.

Ultimately, Jackson complained the media took Anthony’s side after he stirred more controversy with his “don’t change the spot on a leopard” tweet, which was a dig at Anthony’s inability to thrive in the triangle offense. He claimed that led to his dismissal, and you will be shocked to hear Jackson thinks the biggest victims of the situation were the Knicks fans:

“I think that Jim felt like I was facing too big of an uphill climb and relieved me of the job because he just saw the media was going to be backing Carmelo in this situation,” Jackson said. “And I was going to be the guy taking the lumps.”

“It felt like a major disappointment to have to go through that and not being able to turn that thing around because it’s a heartbeat of New York. It’s a big part of what they like — their basketball team. There are long devoted Knick fans and I appreciate their desire but I think they get in the way of the team a lot of times.” 

Another controversy Jackson took issue with was his labeling of LeBron James’ business partners as his “posse.” James responded to the remark by saying he had lost all respect for the legendary coach. Again, Jackson said he believed it was the media’s fault:

“There was a lot of distortion that went into it,” Jackson said on the podcast. “And texting and media was a big part of it … But I used that terminology that we used a lot. And it was roundly made a racist remark or whatever it was. That can be thrown into the mix.”

This won’t be the end of Jackson’s comments, as Thursday’s episode was just Part 1 of what must have been a lengthy conversation. We’ll see what the coach has to say about, say, Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah in the future.

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