Steve Kerr, a Jackson disciple and friend who was widely expected
to make Madison Square Garden his new home court, spurned the Knicks
and signed instead to coach the Golden State Warriors on a massive
five-year $25 million contract.
When Jackson fired head coach Mike Woodson and his staff last month
after a disappointing Knicks season left them out of the playoffs,
he vowed the time had come for change throughout the franchise.
Now the time has come for Jackson to identify another chief coaching
target to help him change the culture of losing that has consumed
the Knicks, who last won an NBA title in 1973 with Jackson on the
court as a defensive-minded forward.
Fans of the orange and blue might dream of having Jackson call the
shots from courtside as he did in claiming a record 11 NBA titles as
coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
But the 68-year-old Jackson has repeatedly insisted his days of
coaching are over due to his age and health concerns and that he was
embracing his first crack at building an NBA title team as front
A long list of names have been bandied about in the media since the
news broke late on Wednesday that Kerr chose to steer a more
talented team that is based closer to his California home and family
over his allegiance to Jackson.
Former coaches Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, whose firing by
Golden State opened the door for Kerr to join the Warriors, have
both been mentioned and both have ties to the Knicks.
Van Gundy coached the New Yorkers for seven seasons and then the
Houston Rockets before becoming a TV commentator, while Jackson grew
up in New York and played seven seasons for the Knicks in two
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, a former New York assistant, could also
be a candidate if he were allowed to leave Chicago.
Kerr himself could provide a clue as to where Phil Jackson looks
Kerr, who also won two NBA crowns under coach Gregg Popovich in San
Antonio and was general manager of the Phoenix Suns before becoming
a TV analyst, had no coaching experience but was in step
philosophically with Jackson and his hoops vision.
Jackson is committed to the fundamental principles of passing,
movement and teamwork, as embodied in the triangle offense he used
in Chicago and in Los Angeles and may favor a candidate that can
install a similar game plan for the Knicks.
[to top of second column]
He could pursue Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis or make a run at Derek
Fisher, his former Lakers point guard who won five NBA rings with
Fisher is currently playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder in the
NBA's Western Conference semi-finals but has said this 18th season
would be his last as a player.
Rambis, who also served as an assistant in Los Angeles under
Jackson, had 2-1/2 seasons as a head coach with the Lakers and
Minnesota, but a poor combined mark of 56-145.
If Jackson looks back to his days with the Bulls, he could seek out
former center Bill Cartwright, who won three crowns with him in
Cartwright, who coached the Bulls for parts of three seasons with a
record of 51-100, also has Knicks ties, having played eight seasons
at the Garden.
Jackson, however, could face competition for Cartwright from new
Warriors coach Kerr, who hired Cartwright as an assistant during his
days with the Phoenix Suns.
Another prominent name mentioned is Brian Shaw, a former player and
assistant under Jackson in Los Angeles. But Shaw already has a job
as head coach of the Denver Nuggets, who would require compensation
for a move to New York.
Another candidate could be Jim Cleamons, an assistant under Jackson
with both the Bulls and Lakers, who served as head coach of the
Mavericks for just over a season with a 28-70 record.
Cleamons, who played for the Knicks in the late 1970s, is currently
an assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks.
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