Madison Square Garden played host Tuesday to yet another event proclaiming itself to be moment zero in the renaissance of the New York Knicks basketball franchise.
Knicks owner James Dolan introduced Phil Jackson, former Knicks player-turned-11-time-NBA champion head coach with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, as the new president of basketball operations during a late morning press conference at Madison Square Garden.
The average annual salary for an NBA executive is $1.4 million. Mr. Jackson, by contrast, will reportedly make $12 million a year for the next five years, yet another sign that Madison Square Garden believes that spending freely will finally yield a winning team.
“It’s an historic day for the Knicks,” said Mr. Dolan, repeating a phrase he has used several times in recent years. “When you can get Phil Jackson to run your team, you do it.”
Mr. Jackson’s $60 million compensation package is the latest significant down payments Mr. Dolan has made in recent years in hopes of recouping his investment with an NBA title, which the Knicks have not won since 1972.
The Knicks have the second highest payroll in the NBA at $87.7 million. Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony have the fourth and fifth highest salaries, respectively. In addition, Mr. Dolan just finished a $1 billion renovation of Madison Square Garden.
Despite all that capital, the team’s 27-40 record nonetheless leaves them four games shy of a playoff spot.
Mr. Jackson, who played on the last Knicks team to win a championship, avoided talking about the team’s current troubles in favor of forward-looking, optimistic tones. “An auspicious beginning to say the least,” he said taking the podium.
But the introduction was not free of gallows humor. Mr. Dolan offered a little back story to his and Mr. Jackson’s new relationship, crediting music mogul Irving Azoff for introducing the two men at a Los Angeles party. The Knicks owner thanked Mr. Azoff for before taking a pause and saying archly, “If this doesn’t work out, we can blame you” (source).