Stuck in the Past

April 1st 2015, by Adam H. Burns

I recently read an article in ESPN: The Magazine written by Peter Keating about Phil Jackson, the hall-of-fame NBA head coach who won 6 championships with the Chicago Bulls and another 5 with the Los Angeles Lakers. He is currently President of the New York Knicks, a team mired in a horrible season (Keating calls them an unwatchable mess).

Including this season, the Knicks have only won 1 playoff series in the last 15 seasons, and Jackson’s hiring was seen by experts as a great move by team ownership. He was someone who brought championship pedigree and was considered a visionary as a head coach. He hand-picked a new head coach and installed his legendary triangle offense, and Knicks fans were extremely hopeful that these moves would end decades of heartbreak.

But so far, this hasn’t been the case.

The triangle offense is outdated. It was the new, shiny thing in the mid-90s and 2000s and Jackson’s teams ran it perfectly. But now many teams across all sports are shifting towards an era of analytics, where teams dissect every piece of statistical information possible to get even the slightest edge. Jackson and his coach, Derek Fisher, haven’t embraced this new strategy, opting instead for the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality. According to ESPN’s Great Analytics Rankings, the Knicks rank 121st out of 122 professional teams (just ahead of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies, who are also stuck in a rebuilding situation because they have the same attitude). Their lack of willingness to adjust to keep up with the rest of the league has resulted in few wins, frustrated fans, and a prolonged roster rebuild.

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