Knicks owner James Dolan to honor agreement with Phil Jackson, won't meddle

ByOhm Youngmisuk via ESPN logo
Saturday, February 11, 2017

NEW YORK -- Refraining from offering any judgment on the job that Phil Jackson has done so far, New York Knicks owner James Dolan said he'll "honor my agreement" and let the team president finish his five-year contract if he chooses and not meddle in any player personnel affairs.

"Three years ago, I signed a contract with Phil Jackson," Dolan said Friday during an interview on The Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "The man who has more championship rings as far as I know than anybody else. He was the best guy we thought we could find to run the New York Knicks. And I made an agreement with him.

"The agreement didn't say that you have to have this amount of wins by this time or anything of the sort like that. I literally turned over the entire basketball operations over to Phil and [general manager] Steve [Mills]. And that is where I am at. Whether I like the results or don't like the results, I am going to honor that agreement, all the way to the end."

Dolan, the executive chairman of Madison Square Garden, was asked if he'd consider opting out of his deal with Jackson, who also has an option in his contract.

"I am not going to exercise any opt-outs," said Dolan, who later added Jackson has given no indication about his own opt-out other than to finish his contract. "I don't know that Phil will either. I am going to honor that agreement for the full agreement."

Dolan refused to comment when pressed again about the job Jackson is doing, as the Knicks had lost 19 of their past 25 games entering Friday. They lost again Friday night, 131-123 to theDenver Nuggets.

"From the position I am in, Phil doesn't need to hear from me, especially through the radio, about the job," Dolan said. "It is a five-year deal, guys. Maybe at the end of five years, we'll see. But right now, while he is still in the middle of his deal and doing that job, I am staying out."

He did, however, point to his team president when asked what he would say to angry fans who consider Dolan to be the villain.

"Ask Phil," he replied.

Dolan's rare interview comes at a time when the Knicks have been mired in constant turmoil. Jackson has explored trade possibilities with the LA Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics involving star Carmelo Anthony.

The Jackson-Anthony relationship has been strained this season by some comments and tweets by Jackson that have been interpreted as critical of Anthony's game.

Dolan, who orchestrated the trade that brought Anthony to New York from Denver in 2011, was asked if he would weigh in on whether he would want to see Anthony dealt.

"I am just ... I am not going to go there," Dolan said. "Because that is meddling with Phil and that is telling him how to do his job and I am not going to do it."

Anthony has a no-trade clause that Jackson gave him when he re-signed with the Knicks in 2014. Anthony has said his preference is to remain in New York, but he has had to repeatedly answer questions about whether Jackson wants to trade him and their strained relationship.

Jackson hasn't spoken to the New York media.

When Dolan lured Jackson to the Knicks, he promised full control to Jackson and that Dolan wouldn't interfere in basketball decisions. There was speculation that Dolan wanted Jackson to re-sign Anthony in 2014 and that he didn't want Jackson to elevate good friend Kurt Rambis to head coach before the team hired Jeff Hornacek last offseason.

"No, not true. Nope," Dolan said about Rambis. "The Carmelo thing is not true, either. It was totally up to Phil what to do. I honestly had no idea what he was going to do [with Anthony in free agency]. I sort of made it a point of staying away and not weighing in."

Some fans want Dolan to step in with the Phil-Melo drama.

"Yes, of course," Dolan said. "At this point, I am hearing from people that you have to step in. No. No. It doesn't work that way."

As far as any cryptic tweets sent by Jackson, Dolan said the team president has full control over however he wants to deliver his messages to the public.

"Part of his agreement is that he completely controls his own public relations, his own fan relations," Dolan explained. "It is totally within his control."

When told by Kay that is a lot of control to have, Dolan reminded everyone how he had heard enough criticism of his involvement in basketball operations when Jackson was hired.

"You know what? You just need a memory here," Dolan said with a smile.

Dolan again referenced his agreement with Jackson when asked if he still believes in Jackson's ability to run the Knicks.

"It doesn't matter whether I think he is right or whether he is wrong," Dolan said. "I am going to honor my agreement because that is what you do. He's got at least a little more than two years left and has every right to continue on with that agreement for the full time, and let's hope that he is successful."

Dolan was asked if he's worried about the negative perception that players and potential free agents may have of the Knicks with all the drama.

"That is totally within Phil's control," Dolan said. "Phil has to address that. He is going to be concerned about that. I am not going to weigh in on those things that I said I wouldn't weigh in on."

With the Knicks sinking in the standings after a 16-13 start, Dolan says he will withhold judgment on how things are going.

"It is not over yet," Dolan said. "My hope is that the team will become much much better and that Phil will be successful. As he has had all along the way, he has my support and resources that he needs to do it. I recognize some three-plus years ago, that this running a basketball operation, this is not my skill set, and the best thing I can do is find the best thing. Everybody seemed to agree.

"A lot of people said you won't be able to stay away, you are going to meddle," Dolan continued. "Well, I think everybody recognizes now that I have stayed away and I have let Phil absolutely run the franchise. And I intend to do that for the length of the agreement. How can I ever get anybody else to come and work for us, right, if I didn't honor my agreement?"

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