Phil Jackson, dating back years, has never had a problem lording over someone’s current coaching job. He wasn’t exactly thought to be a surefire replacement for Doug Collins in Chicago during the late 1980s, but towards the end of Collins’ tenure with the Bulls the ex-Chicago coach was notoriously distrustful of the lead assistant in Jackson that he didn’t even hire. Jackson then dealt with former Bulls general manager infamously courting then-Iowa State coach Tim Floyd while Jackson was still on the Bulls bench, which was followed up by Krause and the Bulls embarrassingly hiring Floyd to a nonsense front office position in the summer of 1998, while publicly begging Phil Jackson to come back as coach in a transparent and pathetic public relations move.
Jackson then had no issue speaking with New York Knicks brass in 1999 about a coaching job while then-Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy struggled with his rotations and record. When Van Gundy righted the ship the mutual interest between New York and Jackson cooled, with Van Gundy developing an admirable grudge and policy that precludes him from discussing or interviewing for jobs currently held by head or interim coaches. Jackson’s camp then fueled flames about Phil taking on the Lakers job that spring, even with future best friend forever Kurt Rambis currently holding that gig (if not the clipboard).
Phil Jackson doesn’t care about your feelings, current New York Knick front office and coaching staff.
Reported go-to Jackson hire Steve Kerr? He’s a little more tactful.
Right in the heart of the “Jackson-to-New York” rumor mongering sat Kerr on Tuesday, stuck in a conference call to help promote CBS and Turner’s coverage of the upcoming NCAA tournament. Several outlets have reported that Kerr is likely to be Jackson’s choice as a head coach should Jackson eventually agree with Knicks owner James Dolan as to how many millions he’ll be set to steal from the Madison Square Garden embarrassment.
Kerr, mindful that the Knicks already have a head coach in Mike Woodson, one that is attempting one last late charge into the Eastern playoff bracket with five weeks left in the season, expertly sidestepped questions about the Knicks job. From the New York Post:
“I understand the speculation,” Kerr said. “I’ve said I wanted to coach at some point in my life, I know Phil, I played for him [with the Bulls]. People are sort of connecting the dots, but it’s very uncomfortable commenting on speculation, especially when it comes to someone else’s jobs.”
We’re connecting the dots for a reason. Kerr has absolutely no coaching experience, but his playing pedigree (working under coaching greats like Lute Olsen, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Lenny Wilkens, Matt Guokas, Jackson and Gregg Popovich), work as an executive, his stylings as a broadcast analyst, and even his gigs writing for Yahoo Sports and the late NBAtalk.com should leave most assuming he’d eventually round into a fantastic lead man.
Kerr mentioned this pedigree in the conference call. From the Post:
“I was the general manager in Phoenix for three years, and I loved being on the court with the players,” Kerr said. “That’s when it piqued my interest, but I also love working at TNT. I’ve got the greatest gig going. I’m always going to keep my eyes open. I think it’s important in life to always keep looking forward and being open to new things.”
Coaching in New York, for a first time personnel el jefe in Jackson and working the sidelines for the first time would certainly count as a “new thing,” but even with the looming and eventual James Dolan ruination of everything just a few phone calls away, it would probably be hard to say “no” to both Phil Jackson and a significant salary to help turn around a franchise that should be doing far better things for its beleaguered fan base.
We’ll have a full take on Jackson’s ascension to the uneasy throne and Kerr’s viability as a head coach when and if these things become official, but for now it’s safe to say that Kerr is at the very least a candidate worth being encouraged about. No amount of non-denial denials can get in the way of that.
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