Knicks: Coaching Search Running on Phil’s Time Now


William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

This won’t come as a surprise to many but New York isn’t the most patient of towns and the New York Knicks’ faithful aren’t exactly the most patient bunch either. Knicks president Phil Jackson doesn’t operate in a constant hustle and rush like the rest of the city does. Fans along with the rest of the basketball world will have to wait it out for awhile to find out who Jackson picks to attempt a culture overhaul at Madison Square Garden.

Despite Jackson’s often deliberate process, it seemed like New York’s coaching search would last about a second and be over before we knew it. He knew who he wanted and went after him with most of us thinking it was a foregone conclusion that the Knicks had found their man in Steve Kerr about the same time Jax jumped on board with the club.

It blindsided most of the NBA and its followers that Kerr spurned the Knicks but probably not Jackson, who knew his former player would garner some attention. The whole reason Phil wanted Kerr signed before the first round of the playoffs ended was because he foresaw suitors from teams that were eliminated and could compete with his offer.

Now that Jackson missed out on his first choice and the Kerr-to-the-Knicks talk has been eliminated, the search is coming to a grinding halt as Jackson wants to weigh out his options, as he should. The Jackson/Kerr relationship made it feel like Kerr was a shoe-in for the position but since that fell through, Phil’s entire approach changes as the dynamics of the search and available options do.

He is surely going to wait to speak to his former player and current Oklahoma City point guard Derek Fisher before making a decision. He’s also going to weigh his options like former Knick/beloved New Yorker Mark Jackson and has already spoken with longtime coach Mike Dunleavy. There is even talk about current Nuggets coach Brian Shaw but it seems wildly unlikely considering the Knicks fear they don’t have the resources required to land a non free-agent coach. Dunleavy has experience under his belt being a head coach since 1990 and Mark Jackson impressed during his time in the Bay Area, bringing Golden State success it hadn’t had in two decades.

Aside from the advantages that coaching the Warriors bring a coach with options like Steve Kerr, it’s also a fact that not everyone wants to coach in the big apple. People around the league consider the position poison; the roster can’t significantly upgrade for an entire season, the pressure is enormous, there are question marks about Carmelo Anthony’s return and the fear of some that Jackson will be looking over his coach’s shoulder waiting to step in if need be.

While all these things seem somewhat valid in their own way, the fact of the matter is that a worthy candidate is going to want this position. There are still an abundance of amenities that come along with being the coach of the New York Knicks including the paycheck, future salary cap flexibility and working in a city and for a team that wants to restore its basketball glory as badly as any other. We can’t ignore that the reward for winning in New York is colossal and even though the task is great, there’s no better opportunity than with Phil Jackson on your side.

Remember when everyone waited for Pat Riley to step in for Erik Spoelstra? Well two championships later with a possible third on the way and Spoelstra is a very good NBA coach that ended up never having to worry about it because the two worked together, not with one in fear of the other. If we believe Phil was truthful in his saying that he no longer wants to coach, then candidates should have nothing to fear and be eager to work with the Zen Master on putting a banner in the rafters.

Going with that Riley/Spoelstra theory, Fisher works a lot like Kerr did as an ex-player and champion under Jackson. Fisher can be a direct extension of Phil ideologically and run the triangle that made Jackson a legend. With some other choices personalities or basketball ideas don’t match up as well and there is grey area schematically that will need working out and that’s why Fisher definitely leads the pack right now. However, that’s how it was with Kerr as well so it’s hard to speculate at this time.

All we can be sure of is that patience is needed as Knicksland waits to see how this shakes out. In one man’s opinion Knicks fans have no choice but to trust the man with thirteen rings and since he’s making $12 million a year to do his job, all we can do is hope he’s able to earn it.

Jackson is attempting to do his due diligence just like Kerr did and make the best decision for him, the team, the organization as a whole and in turn, the fans. Phil’s return to New York is an attempt to bring his illustrious basketball career full-circle, to win where the winning first started for him. Making the decision that will help him do that is not something that should or will be done hastily at this point.

Some things to keep in mind are other potential suitors for the Knicks’ candidates, ability to work alongside Jackson and the confidence to coach in a place where it’s certainly no cakewalk. We are far from the end of this discussion and Empire Writes Back will be covering New York’s coaching search every step of the way. Stay tuned because interesting things will be coming from Phil Jackson and the Knicks.