New York Knicks: 7 Potential Replacements for Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson speaks with the media.
Phil Jackson’s time with the New York Knicks is finally over. | Bryan R. Smith/AFP/Getty Images

The New York Knicks can spin it any way they want, but we all know the truth: They fired Phil Jackson. The Zen Master might be the greatest coach in NBA history. However, as a front office executive, he’s closer to a “disaster” than he ever was a “master.” This is why, after three seasons of making questionable decisions as the team’s President of Basketball Operations, Jackson and the Knicks decided to finally “part ways.”

Now without a team president, Knicks owner Jimmy Dolan faces the tall order of finding a replacement. In years past, this might have been one of the more coveted positions in the National Basketball Association. Today, considering the level of dysfunction within the organization, that’s no longer the case the case.

That being said, the Knicks remain a big-time franchise with mass appeal. Someone will want the gig. In our opinion, these seven candidates make the most sense as potential replacements for Jackson in New York.

1. Brian Wright

If the New York Knicks hope to return to their winning ways, then they might as well poach an executive from the winningest franchise in professional sports. The San Antonio Spurs hired Brian Wright away from the Detroit Pistons before the 2016–17 season. The Assistant General Manager received the seal of approval from head coach Gregg Popovich right from the start, according to the Detroit Free Press:

He’s a very good organizer and judge of talent. On top of that, he’s got a way about him that’s impressive in the sense that he’s a team player. He’s willing to be just participatory in what he does. We have a very participatory program. It’s not management over here, coaches over here. We mesh very well. Our meeting are together. Managers can walk into my coaching sessions. I can walk into management’s office. We have a great situation in that regard.

This might not be how they currently run things in New York, but it’s clearly worked out for the Spurs. The Knicks would be wise to give Wright a serious look.

2. Joe Dumars

Allen Iverson and Joe Dumars address the media.
Joe Dumars had loads of success as the President of Basketball Operations for the Detroit Pistons. | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Since he stepped down as the Pistons’ President of Basketball Operations in 2014, Joe Dumars hasn’t called the shots for an NBA front office. Maybe it’s time he gets back in the game.

During his time running the show for the organization (2000–14), the Pistons made six consecutive Eastern Conference finals and won the title in 2004. The NBA also named Dumars the Executive of the Year during the 2002–03 season. Sure, Joe D was responsible for taking Darko Mili?i? over Carmelo Anthony in the 2003 NBA Draft. But, if you ask us, the guy definitely deserves a shot at redemption.

3. Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas addresses the media.
Former New York Knicks President Isiah Thomas knows the demands of the job. | Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

It would be classic Dolan to replace Jackson with former executive — and one-time Team President — Isiah Thomas. However, as the Knicks’ owner has shown countless times, he’s not opposed to making terrible decisions. While New York Daily News’ Frank Isola has named Thomas as a “dark horse candidate” for the position, Thomas states that he is perfected happy with his current situation.

Still, when it comes to the New York Knicks, you never know.

4. John Calipari

John Calipari coaches the Kentucky Wildcats.
John Calipari could be a “dark horse candidate” for the New York Knicks. | Andy Lyons/Getty Images

According to reports from ESPN’s Ian Begley, Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari used “intermediaries” to inquire about the Knicks position. However, like Thomas, Coach Cal took to Twitter to vehemently deny interest in the gig:

This isn’t the first time that people have linked Calipari to a return to the National Basketball Association. And trust us, it won’t be the last.

5. Steve Mills

Knicks general manager Steve Mills looks on during a press conference.
The Knicks could promote from within by hiring General Manager Steve Mills. | Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Should the Knicks opt to stay in-house to fill the vacancy, then current General Manager Steve Mills seems like the obvious choice. As noted by Dolan, Mills currently runs the day-to-day operations during free agency. Per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, the GM is using this time to “make a bold power play” for the President position. In the infamous words of Dodgeball‘s Pepper Brooks (played by Jason Batemen): “It’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em.”

6. David Griffin

David Griffin and David Blatt chat with the media.
David Griffin (R) helped build a championship team in Cleveland. | Jason Miller/Getty Images

Despite being the architect behind the Cavaliers team that went to three straight NBA Finals and won the whole thing in 2016, General Manager David Griffin was not retained by the organization after the 2016–17 season. Cleveland’s loss, however, might be New York’s gain, as there is clearly mutual interest between the two parties, per ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne?:

Griffin shows he knows how to successfully construct a winner. What more could the New York Knicks and their diehard fanbase ask for?

7. Masai Ujiri

Masai Ujiri looks on before the Raptors take on the Cavs.
Toronto’s Masai Ujiri would be a huge get for the Knicks. | Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the man at the top of the Knicks’ wish list — and for good reason — is Toronto’s Masai Ujiri.

As one of the most successful, respected NBA executives, Toronto’s President of Operations being coveted by Dolan makes perfect sense. However, as enticing as the idea of helping return the Knicks to their former glory might be, it’s hard to imagine Ujiri leaving his current position with the Raptors. Still, a fanbase can dream, right?

Statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference and ESPN.