Dear James Dolan:
Hi, there. Jimmy V. again. Still haven't heard from you about my idea to not turn the Knicks into the worst team of this generation. Your response probably got lost in the mail or something.
I'm writing today about a fellow named Mark Jackson. You may remember him. He played for the Knicks and was a Christ-quoting point guard. Not the quarterback one, the baby fat one.
I don't really care for Mark, I'll admit it. I was too young to root for him in his first go-around with the Knicks, and caught him right in the meat of his Pacers years. You know, the ones where he was the seventh leading scorer on the team that went to the finals, right behind Travis Best.
Anyway, I hear that Donnie Walsh is thinking about hiring Mark Jackson. I was wondering if you could write back and explain the logic of that move. It seems to me that there might be some negatives. I made you a list:
1. No coaching experience.
2. No assistant coaching experience.
3. No management experience.
4. Very, very bad color commentary.
a. "Little move there, and THA BANK IS OPEN!"
b. "Mehmet Okur has played [Tim] Duncan better than anyone I've ever seen anyone play him."
c. "You got someone on the ropes....take 'em to the dance floor. Tony Parker in traffic....BALLIN!"
Q: Who are your favorite sportscasters?
A: I watch guys like Joe Morgan. I'll watch Hubie Brown. I'll watch George Foreman or Roy Jones Jr.. I just think you have to do it. You have to make it interesting. You have to make it fun. [For those of you who are not aware, George Foreman and Roy Jones Jr., both hall of fame boxers, are comically bad commentators that sometimes appear on HBO PPV events because someone wants to have a boxer in the booth.]5. No one in the entire city of New York is outwardly excited that Mark Jackson will be coach.
6. It seems like giving point guards with questionable coaching resumes jobs has not worked out well for the Knicks in the past.
7. No coaching experience.
8. Never a team leader.
9. No coaching experience.
10. We have no idea if he can coach.
Now, JamesD, this is just me, but don't most of the "benchmark" organizations in sports generally have the advantage of being able to hire coaches with experience, track records, or at the very least credentials more considerable than Mark's?
I realize I may be biased, so I decided I'd make a list of advantages we get with Mark Jackson:
1. He seems to have a good personality.
2. High moral character (as far as I know).
3. Number two all-time in assists.
4. Trip to the NBA Finals.
5. Played for Pat Riley (who traded him for Doc Rivers, Charles Smith, and Bo Kimble).
6. (Presumably) kept spirits up on 21-61 Denver Nuggets during his time there.
7. Involved with one of the great dunks of all-time.
8. Former Knick (hiring former players often results in coaches who perform well, because of the causal relationship between playing for a team and being able to coach them).
9. Announcers are known for expansive knowledge of play-calling, personnel management, and player development.
10. Mark probably got to learn from a lot of different coaches during his stints with the Knicks, Clippers, Pacers, Nuggets, Pacers again, Raptors, Knicks again, Jazz, and Rockets.
I admit, the above list is pretty impressive, but I'm not convinced. Is it really your intent to hire a guy just because he is from New York and has a post-basketball career in broadcasting? I mean, I've heard of coaches becoming announcers, but I don't believe it's ever gone the other way. Doesn't that mean anything?
I'm reminded of Kareem Abdul Jabbar (known for his intelligence) and his inability to find a head coaching job above the minor league level. He is probably the greatest player in NCAA history, he is the NBA's all-time leading scorer, he has beaten Larry King on Celebrity Jeopardy, but the only coaching gig he could get was for the Oklahoma Storm of the USBL. And after winning the championship with them, he was turned down for a job at the noted basketball power that is Columbia University.
I know Kareem is "mean", but he is from Harlem (his dad was in the NYPD), he's known for an all-time stat that seems more important than Jackson's, and he's smart. Why not consider someone like him, Jimmy D?
Unfortunately, I think I know the answer. Mark Jackson is a nice man, and obviously not incompetent when it comes to basketball. He gets along with the press and some consider him gregarious. Although Kareem has rings and MVPs and a solid resume (he has been an assistant with the Sonics and Clippers), he has always been unafraid to speak his mind and refused to compromise.
It seems to me that the choice of Mark Jackson is meant only to pacify the Knicks fan base, and this is an egregious error on the part of the Knicks. It's been too long for pacification, and most of the moves the Knicks have made to satisfy fans that they believe will not tolerate long-term building have resulted in a near-ten year drought.
Please, JamesD, consider a better coaching candidate. Consider someone who has coached at least at the high school level. Maybe even someone who has shown the ability to bring players together at the professional level!
I know that Donnie Walsh is behind this, and I know you gave him autonomy, but just this once, maybe for the first time, you can get involved in the day-to-day operations of the Knicks and help them make the right move. Obviously, they're already floundering without you.
As always, e-mail me at email@example.com
PS: It's another topic for another day, but it is a crime Kareem can't get a shot at coaching. Why are people so afraid of coaches who are notable for their principles, candor, and willingness to criticize? It seems to me that many some of the best coaches in the NBA (Jerry Sloan, Phil Jackson, Greg Popovich, Larry Brown) display these traits. There's a reason teams have PR departments and coaches' ability to resonate with the public shouldn't be part of their job requirements.