By Brian Hanley-
(CBS) Let’s play a game of Phil in the blanks.
Depending on who is doing the talking, Phil Jackson took the job to be president — and perhaps part owner — of the New York Knicks on Saturday, Monday or not yet.
Depending on who is doing the talking, Phil will be paid $12 million per year or $15 million with a minority stake in the $1 billion-plus team.
Depending on who is doing the talking, Phil is being wooed by the Knicks mostly so team owner James Dolan’s man crush, Carmelo Anthony, will be more amenable to take the nearly $130 million Dolan wants to give the soon-to-be-free-agent in a new five-year contract.
Then again, when Phil last talked of Melo, it didn’t sound like much of a bromance between the two.
The Zen Master made critical remarks about the Melo man in a 2012 interview on HBO’s “Real Sports.” Jackson then called the Knicks’ roster “clumsy,” referring to Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire being a bad mix. He also said Anthony needs to pass the ball more.
Dolan’s plan has been to build around Anthony.
“It’s the first conflict of Dolan vs. Jackson,” one league source told the New York Post. “Carmelo is not Phil’s type of player or leader, and Dolan’s invested in him.’’
And Bulls fans think the question of whether to amnesty Carlos Boozer and his $16 million salary this summer is a major head scratcher.
The Post reported Jackson has an agreement in principle to lead the Knicks’ basketball operations and will receive the title of president — with the last details of the pact being finalized by attorneys.
Unless the Los Angeles Lakers make a late play to make Phil the team president.
The Knicks are hoping to make an announcement at some point next week, which is when a group of Knicks fans is organizing a protest against ownership outside Madison Square Garden before the Knicks’ home game against the Indiana Pacers next Wednesday. A press conference in the middle of next week would be one way for Dolan to stymie the protest. Of course, the longer this goes on, it opens the door for the Lakers to make a play.
It also allows Jackson to keep his name out front and center.
“He loves it,” one opposing general manager told the New York Daily News. “He badly wants to stay relevant. And he loves the money. He’s the Zen Capitalist.”
The News reported Jackson will get the minority ownership stake to go with the $15 million annually with next week as the time of an official announcement of Jackson’s imminent arrival in New York — though Jackson’s said to rather run the team from near Manhattan Beach.
As part of Jackson’s deal, it appears that he will get to spend most of his time running the Knicks from his beach house in southern California. “He will spend 35 percent of his time in New York and make it look like 50 percent,” a person close to Jackson told the Daily News.
A Knicks official told the Daily News the arrangement might actually be beneficial to the club and Jackson.
“Sometimes those are the healthiest marriages,” the official said. “(Dolan) will drive Phil crazy at some point. You know that will happen. But the less Phil is around, it will delay the inevitable.”
Speaking of marriages, Jackson is engaged to Jeanie Buss, vice president of the Lakers. She was seen Wednesday wearing a sweatshirt with New York stitched across the front while walking her dog on Playa Del Rey beach, where she lives with Jackson.
You can’t make this stuff up.
“It’s my favorite sweatshirt,” she told the Daily News, laughing at the idea her clothes meant Jackson was Broadway bound.
Buss told the newspaper it was “not appropriate for (her) to talk about Jackson and the Knicks.
“Of course I wouldn’t stop him,” Buss told the paper. “It’s his decision to make, of course.”
Anthony must make a decision, too. And many Bulls fans hope he would want out of New York enough to take a major pay cut to head here next season.
Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson started a campaign recently to bring Jackson back into the Lakers’ fold.
“I love Jim & Jeanie Buss, but we need Phil Jackson to be the face of our great organization, the Los Angeles Lakers,” Johnson tweeted.
Jim Buss is the Lakers’ executive vice president and son of the Lakers’ late owner Jerry Buss. Jim and Jeanie have been in a rift since dad and brother decided to tell Jackson “thanks but no thanks” when he wanted to return as Lakers coach in November 2012. Instead they hired Mike D’Antoni to replace Mike Brown.
D’Antoni has had his hands full with injuries and insubordination since and likely will be let go of after this season.
Bryant mentioned Jim and Jeanie Buss by name Wednesday when he said the organization has “to start at the top in terms of the culture of our team.”
Asked about Jackson going to the Knicks, Bryant said: “You know how I feel about Phil. I have so much admiration for him and respect and I have a great relationship with him. Personally, it would be hard for me to understand that happening twice. It would be tough. I don’t really get it.”
It sounds as if Anthony doesn’t quite get Jackson yet in New York.
“I still don’t have all the details,’’ Anthony told the Post before the Knicks won in Boston for the team’s fifth straight victory. “I heard he will be coming aboard. It’s not official yet. You can always use Phil Jackson’s insight on whatever — his philosophy, his mind-set, his resume, what he brings to a team, organization — that goes without even saying.’’
Maybe it was Jackson’s 11 championship rings that clued in Anthony, who has no such jewelry.
“You can’t take for granted what he knows about basketball, whether he’s on the sideline or in the front office,’’ Anthony said. “I’m pretty sure he’ll try his best to do what he has to do to build a championship here, a championship team, put guys together. He knows how to put guys together, a team together.'”
Anthony said he has never spoken with Jackson in all his years in the NBA, and he didn’t sense his opinion was going to sway team executives.
He said he’ll let the front office handle its business. What it means for his future, we’ll all just have to wait and see.
“It’s different that’s it the front office and not coaching,” Anthony told the Daily News. “It’s a big difference. We’ll see how it plays out. I don’t want to jump the gun as far as being consulted. They have to do what they have to do in the front office and make the moves. They brought it to me a couple of days ago. It wasn’t something (where) it was do-or-die based on my decision. Them guys were going to make the decision regardless of what I said. I kind of let the guys handle the situation and I focus on basketball and hope and pray we all do the right thing to try to build a team here.’’
Brian Hanley is the co-host of the Mully and Hanley Show on 670 The Score from 5 a.m.-9 a.m. on weekdays.