“The Last Dance’’ ends Sunday, completing five weeks of Phil Jackson being depicted in the most positive light during his run with the Bulls.
Charley Rosen, Jackson’s confidant/biographer and his former Albany Patroons assistant, has appeared in two episodes. He’s still worried Jackson’s failed 3 ½-year run as Knicks president has hurt his perception in New York.
Rosen said Jackson should never have come out of retirement and taken the position in March 2014.
“I told him not to take it because it’s crazy there,’’ Rosen said. “Jeanie [Buss] told him not to take it. If he came there, it would end their relationship 3,000 miles away.”
Jackson previously said Jeanie encouraged him to take the job, but they indeed broke up during his stint with the Knicks. Jackson is holed up in Montana during the coronavirus pandemic, watching his Bulls reign unfold before millions of viewers.
“People have to understand [Michael] Jordan, [Scottie] Pippen, Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal] and Kobe [Bryant] — all the years those guys were together in the NBA — never won anything until Phil,’’ said Rosen, who has published a new novel, “Trouthe, Lies, & Basketball,” about the sordid tale of a one-and-done college star from Manhattan. “He took those four guys to the next level. And he did it because of the triangle.”
Jackson’s triangle magic didn’t work in New York. Rosen can count the reasons and blames Jackson for not finding the right coach.
“Hiring Derek Fisher was a mistake for a lot of reasons,’’ Rosen said. “He wasn’t ready. And there was a division in the coaching staff between Derek’s OKC guys [Brian Keefe, Josh Longstaff, Dave Bliss] and Phil’s guys [Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons]. Fisher’s guys didn’t want anything to do with them.’’
Sunday will feature Jeff Hornacek in a Jazz uniform defending Jackson’s Bulls in the 1998 Finals. Without that experience, Hornacek would never have been hired.
“Jeff said he knew the triangle [from facing the Bulls],’’ Rosen said. “Turned out he really didn’t. He’s a really nice guy but was intimidated by New York. He started out trying to be a nice guy with the players and then trying to be an a–hole later on. You have to do it the opposite way.”
Submit questions on your favorite New York teams to be answered in an upcoming mailbag
Nevertheless, if Carmelo Anthony would’ve embraced the triangle like Jordan finally did, Jackson’s term would’ve been a hit, Rosen claims.
“Carmelo undercut him, telling [Kristaps] Porzingis not to say anything in public about how good the triangle was,’’ Rosen said. “Carmelo refused to run the triangle — which is why Phil re-signed him: There was a lot of pressure from [owner James] Dolan. But if Carmelo would’ve run the triangle, he’d be open on the weakside.
“He’d have to pass and do this and run around, but he’d ultimately have a whole side wide open — 16-17 feet away from the basket. The defense would be too far away to double. He’d have open jump shots and was one or two dribbles from the basket. He’d be a killer. He’d be Michael Jordan. He’d be unstoppable. But Melo was catch and shoot and didn’t want to do other things.’’
Jackson looked to take advantage of Porzingis’ market value during the 2017 draft following the Latvian’s missed exit meeting, according to Rosen. Beyond that rebellion, Jackson was concerned Porzingis’ durability and inside strength could hamper him from becoming a superstar.
“[Phil] saw stronger, smaller players with lower gravity get underneath him, move him out,’’ Rosen said. “Porzingis had little body strength, no knee strength, sloppy footwork.”
Jackson’s trade plan was met icily by fans, media and Dolan, who fired him after the draft.
“He could’ve gotten three starters [including Lauri Markkanen],’’ Rosen said. “Phil turned out to be right. They traded him [in 2019] and got nothing.”
Though he graced two Knicks title teams, Rosen thinks the six Bulls’ titles gnawed at Garden fans, leading to a quick turn against him.
“Yeah, he was a Knick, but also was coach of the Bulls who beat New York in the playoffs,’’ Rosen said. “If you’re too successful, people want to knock you off the pedestal. That happened in the New York media.
“They didn’t give him enough time. You can’t turn a chickens–t into chicken salad in three years.’’