Last Word On Basketball

Masai Ujiri May Replace Phil Jackson in New York

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18: Phil Jackson attends New York Knicks press conference announcing him as team President at Madison Square Garden on March 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)

After three tumultuous years at the helm of the New York Knicks, Phil Jackson was removed. Speculation is rife with respect to his replacement. A name brought up is Masai Ujiri, general manager of the Toronto Raptors. This article examines whether or not Masai Ujiri replaces Phil Jackson in New York.

A Brief Look at the Jackson Knicks era

Phil Jackson arrived in New York City with much fanfare as he was seen as the ideal candidate to lead the hapless and sometimes hopeless Knicks to prominence. He signed a five-year contract worth $60 million in March 2014. Less than a month later, he fired the incumbent head coach Mike Woodson and replaced him with Derek Fisher. Fisher was not Jackson’s first choice, as Steve Kerr was. Kerr consequently accepted an offer from the Golden State Warriors. Fisher was fired less than two years into his tenure, replaced by Jeff Hornacek.

After a series of questionable transactions, including signing Lamar Odom, Jackson signed franchise player Carmelo Anthony to a five-year contract. The Anthony contract ultimately proved the undoing of Jackson as in it included a no-trade clause. Jackson also went on a campaign to alienate and question his team.

Here’s an example on Jackson’s Twitter account;

After the Knicks finished with a league-worst seventeen wins, the Knicks drafted Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis. The following off-season Jackson traded for Derrick Rose and signed Joakim Noah to an incredulous contract. Other notable signings included Courtney Lee and Kyle O’Quinn.

It became evident that Jackson was not garnering the success that he’d envisioned. Jackson, a staunch believer in the principles of the “Triangle” proved more of a distraction than an asset to the Knicks. They plummeted and finished with paltry thirty-one victories in the 2016-17 season. Hardly enough for a super team as Rose once called them.

What’s Next for the Knicks

In his statement to the media, Knicks owner James Dolan said the following; “Steve Mills, the team’s general manager, will run the day-to-day business of the organization over the short term. Tim Leiweke, who brings tremendous expertise and experience in sports franchise management from both Toronto and Los Angeles and is our partner in the Oak View Group, will advise and work with Steve on an interim basis to help develop a go-forward plan.”

Masai Ujiri to the Knicks a Possibility

Leiweke, in his former capacity as President and CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (owners of the Toronto Raptors), hired Masai Ujiri as the Raptors’ General Manager in 2013. With speculation of the Jackson departure came the Ujiri pursuit.

Under Ujiri’s stewardship, the Raptors finished with no fewer than forty-eight victories per season. Ujiri was successful at his previous stop as well. From 2010 through 2013, Ujiri was the General Manager of the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets made the playoffs each season. Finally, in 2013, Ujiri was NBA Executive of the Year.

Though an official statement was not yet made, expect Ujiri to be offered the position soon unless he explicitly states he’s not interested. The question of fit comes later. Right now the Knicks are a rudderless ship heading towards a whirlpool. They badly need a leader to steer them to safety and respectability. Ujiri is that leader, however prying him away from what he has built in Toronto is difficult and will undoubtedly be costly.

Last Word on Pro Basketball will continue to follow this and update as the situation changes.


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