Phil Jackson blames Carmelo Anthony for Knicks downfall, tumultuous tenure

March 26, 2021

People have long memories and hold grudges...

While Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson is nearly four years removed from his tenure as president of the New York Knicks, it appears he’s now ready to throw a bunch of people under the bus for his failed tenure in the Big Apple. 

Jackson appeared on an episode of "The Curious Leader" podcast, which is hosted by Coby Karl, son of George Karl and a former player under Jackson. 

Coby Karl was also a training camp invite of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2012 and spent multiple seasons with the Trail Blazers then D-League affiliate, the Idaho Stampede. 

The podcast, which runs nearly two hours, ranged from the relentless New York media, the infamous Matt Barnes-Derek Fisher incident and how he wound up getting fired by owner James Dolan. 

Jackson also spilled the tea on Carmelo Anthony, who was with the Knicks from 2011-2017. 

Jackson joined the team in 2014. 

And the former Knicks executive didn’t hold back when it came to the future Hall of Famer, accusing him of being a poor leader. 

Carmelo, I think, wanted to be a leader, but I don’t think he completely knew how to be a leader as a player. And I think that the strength of his personality was intimidating to some of the coaches that were asked to coach the team.

Phil Jackson

"And so there wasn’t this compliance that has to happen between players and coaches. And as much I tried to interject my own beliefs, I don’t think you’re close enough to the ground in that situation to really be effective in dictating how things are going to be done.”

While Jackson found it difficult to work with Anthony, the two were stuck together. Anthony held a no-trade clause. Jackson pointed to Anthony’s “lack of compliance,” as well, despite the fact that Jackson was the one to agree to throw in a no-trade clause. 

“I wanted to trade Carmelo and ... he’s got a no-trade clause that they asked for, but I suggested that if there was a situation — and I asked them to trade, I wanted them to be compliant with it," Jackson said. "And you can have all your choices that you want but I want you to go along with the idea that maybe your time has come with being with the Knicks. So that was met without compliance.”

Melo obviously saw things differently. 

"The year after that, they plucked a piece away, and they plucked a piece away, and they plucked a piece away," Anthony said on JJ Redick's "The Old Man & the Three podcast last October. "And before you know it, I'm there. And I'm just there... I'm there in New York and having to figure all of this out."

"He started slowly picking the team apart and fitting in his pieces that he felt would work in that triangle, but also we were in a pivotal time in offense... because the triangle -- it works, but now the game is getting faster, guys are getting quicker, guys are jumping out of the gym. It's like, no, we can't slow it down when we've got a fast break. We can't play in the two-guard front when we've got Derrick Rose and Raymond Felton here. You can't do that."

That's where you see guys (weren't) comfortable in that situation, and I was one of them.

Carmelo Anthony

"Phil, you (weren't) the coach," Anthony said. "Because you (weren't) the coach, it wasn't going to run the way you expected it to run. If you want to coach, you come down here and coach and we would listen. We can run this triangle all day long...There wasn't (any) pushback. Guys (were) unhappy, guys didn't want to do it, but it wasn't like 'nah, we're not doing this.' Because, again, it works, but when you're playing that way a whole 48 minutes, teams make adjustments. You're not making (any) adjustments, you just keep playing that way."

Jackson lamented in the podcast over the fact that the New York media took Carmelo Anthony’s side with Jackson’s "don't change the spot on a leopard" tweet, which took a shot at Anthony's inability to thrive in the triangle offense. Jackson theorizes that the tweet was what ultimately led to his firing. 

Jackson suggests Dolan was between a rock and a hard place. 

“I think that Jim felt like I was facing too big of an uphill climb and relieved me of the job because he just saw the media was going to be backing Carmelo in this situation,” Jackson said. “And I was going to be the guy taking the lumps.”

It felt like a major disappointment to have to go through that and not being able to turn that thing around because it’s a heartbeat of New York.

Phil Jackson

The Knicks' best record under Jackson was 32-50 in the 2015-16 season. The Knicks still haven’t posted a winning season since he was relieved of his duties.