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NBA: Hiring of Phil Jackson bolsters New York Knicks organization

By Mason Levinson and Scott Soshnick
Bloomberg News Service

NEW YORK: The New York Knicks won their season-best sixth consecutive game Saturday in a rout over the Milwaukee Bucks, a day after fortifying the Madison Square Garden Co. unit by hiring hall of fame coach Phil Jackson to run their basketball operations.

The team scheduled a news conference for Tuesday for what they called a “major announcement.” The hiring of Jackson, whose 11 NBA coaching titles is a record, was confirmed by a person with knowledge of the agreement. The person requested anonymity because the deal isn’t public yet. MSG spokesman Barry Watkins declined to comment.

Jackson’s addition comes about two weeks after MSG made Tad Smith its new president and chief executive officer. It bolsters the organization with someone whose persona is strong enough to co-exist with MSG Executive Chairman James Dolan, said Maxim Group analyst John Tinker.

“The message is they’re taking this seriously, and that Jimmy Dolan does want to have the best person there,” Tinker said in a recent telephone interview. “That’s a huge message.”

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said before the 115-94 win over the Bucks that he doesn’t need to try to impress Jackson over the final month of the season.

“I don’t think I need to prove anything as a coach,” Woodson said. “I’ve never felt that way. I try to do the best I can do and if you’re going to judge me on 16 games then that’s on you.”

The team is now 27-40, 11½ games behind the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors and 3½ games out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Woodson is in his second full season with the Knicks after taking over as coach with 24 games left in the 2011-12 season. He also led the Atlanta Hawks for six seasons.

“We’ve had our ups and downs this year, and I take full responsibility for that, but at the end of the day we still have 16 games left,” Woodson said before the latest win. “We’ve got a legitimate shot to make the playoffs and that’s where I’m looking to push this team.”

Coming off elimination last season in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Dolan said before this year that the Knicks had the talent to win the NBA title.

The Knicks made the playoffs each of the past three seasons following a stretch in which they missed the postseason six consecutive years and eight of nine. In 2013, MSG completed a three-year privately financed $1 billion renovation of the company’s namesake Manhattan arena.


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