While receiving an honorary from the University of North Dakota, Phil Jackson talked about the greatest athlete he ever coached: Dennis Rodman.

“Madonna saw what was in there and wanted him . . . to do what she does: be outrageous, and kind of talked him into opening up his character,” Jackson said. “And Dennis didn’t know how many ways he could open up his character.”

Those comments produced laughter at a well-attended event that included Jackson fans and friends and UND students, players and coaches.

So far, the same can’t be said for Alex Rodriguez. The man gets abused no matter what he does for the Yankees. So maybe Dennis Rodman set the blueprint. Now A-Rod needs to dye his hair a different way for every game, get a couple hundred tattoos, take off his jersey and throw it into the crowd after every game, and start banging Carmen Electra. Get to work A-Rod, or you may not survive New York if the Yankees don’t make the playoffs in ’08.