Since he retired from the N.B.A. in 2004, Charles Oakley has been enjoying the good life.
Oakley, a former Knick, takes regular trips to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, where he plays golf with his buddy Michael Jordan; preparing his own cooking show, “Oak in the Kitchen,” where he makes meals with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Chris Tucker; has recently opened Red, the Steakhouse, in Miami’s South Beach; and he oversees Oakley’s Car Wash in Yonkers, where even during a down economy, “I still have my 48-hour guarantee,” he said.
If your car gets dirty within 48 hours, drive back for another wash, if you can afford the gas.
But Oakley is willing to give it all up — at least for nine months a year — to return to the hard life of the hardwood as an N.B.A. assistant and help a team with player development.
“I think I have a lot to teach these young guys,” Oakley, 46, said. “Especially on the defensive end.”
Oakley said his former teammate Patrick Ewing did a great job this season as an assistant with the Orlando Magic. He said he could have similar success with the Knicks, and told the team’s president, Donnie Walsh, just that.
“Nowadays, you may have better athletes,” he said. “But unless they’re taught, they aren’t going to do anything in the league. I talked with Donnie after the last home game and told him that I think I have a lot to offer this team. You can’t just score more points than last year without playing defense.”
Oakley was considered one of the best defensive players in the league when he played, often guarding the other team’s best offensive players. Although he was a power forward, Oakley also covered guards and centers.
“Your offense might not be great every game,” Oakley said. “But defense is just about working hard and outworking your opponents. This team needs a lot of work defensively, and I think I can get the job done.”
The Knicks’ top draft picks — forward Jordan Hill and guard Toney Douglas — were on the all-defensive teams in their college conferences and could be capable students for Oakley to work with.
“Knicks fans are the smartest in the world and they know you can’t just play one end of the court,” Oakley said.
Oakley said he could also teach the players how to win. He played for the Knicks from 1988 to 1998. The Knicks made the playoffs every year. The team has not made the postseason since 2004, but Oakley said the team was on the right track.
“Donnie has done an unbelievable job getting the Knicks under the cap,” he said.
“Some fans don’t understand that to win in the N.B.A., you have to have a basketball person who can evaluate talent and understand how the cap works.”
Oakley said that because of Walsh’s maneuvering, the team would be in a position to go after LeBron James and other potential free agents.
“If they get LeBron, that’s great,” he said. “But you need to build a solid team for the long term, and Donnie is just the guy to get it done.”
Oakley said he believed a main reason the Magic got it done, reaching the N.B.A. finals, was Ewing’s work with the players, especially Dwight Howard.
“Patrick’s doing a good job with Dwight,” he said. “But he can only do so much. Dwight’s got to want to take his game to the next level.”
Just as Ewing preaches extra work, Oakley said that he would want his players to put in long hours to hone their game.
“Some guys get by on natural athletic ability,” Oakley said. “And then when they reach a certain point, they got to put in the time before and after practice and in the off-season. That’s what made Michael Jordan so great and that’s what made Kobe Bryant the great player that he is now.”