Derek Fisher could be leading candidate for Knicks coaching job

Thunder point guard Derek Fisher dribbles downcourt during Thunder point guard Derek Fisher dribbles downcourt during the first half of Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat in Oklahoma City on June 12, 2012. Photo Credit: AP / Jeff Roberson

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Phil Jackson said last month he's all about moving forward. That's what he has to do now that Steve Kerr turned down his offer to become the Knicks coach.

Kerr is going to Golden State and Jackson is starting his coaching search all over again. The Knicks president is expected to pursue someone similar to Kerr -- a young former player who knows the ins and outs of the triangle offense and is able to teach it.

Derek Fisher, playing in his final season for the Oklahoma City Thunder, fits that description and would be the logical leading candidate.

Like Kerr, Fisher has a close relationship to Jackson. They won five titles together with the Lakers. And Fisher, the former president of the players union, also is a proven leader, which is what Jackson said was his first criteria in a coach a few days before he interviewed Kerr.

"We're looking for a leader," Jackson said. "Someone who can bring out the best in players, someone who has the capability of encouraging the staff to meet the needs that players have, that philosophically join in, they buy into what we're doing."

Jackson added, "New York I think demands a personality, a person that fans can believe in, a person who has charismatic appeal, and has a forward-looking idea about the game."

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Fisher was a key member and clutch performer on those Lakers teams. In his book, "Eleven Rings" Jackson repeatedly praises Fisher for his leadership, his positive effect on the Lakers and Kobe Bryant.

If the Thunder reaches the NBA Finals, the Knicks may not name a coach until around the draft. But Jackson said there was no timetable, other than to have a coach for summer league in July.

Amar'e Stoudemire said he was "surprised" and "thought we were set" on Kerr as the next coach. But he understood why Kerr had incentives to stay in California. "It's kind of hard to turn down," Stoudemire said Thursday night at an event in Manhattan. " . . . Most of us would probably take that job as well. It's the nature of the business."

Like Kerr, Fisher has no coaching experience. But he could have veteran coaches on his staff, including Bill Cartwright, Kurt Rambis or Jim Cleamons. Jackson is close to all three, but only Cartwright is currently available. Rambis is under contract with the Lakers and Cleamons with the Bucks. The Knicks would need permission to speak to them. Cartwright has spoken to Jackson already and is expected to again.

If not Fisher, Jackson could turn to other former Lakers, such as Luke Walton or Tyronn Lue. Rambis and Cartwright are options as well.

In his book, Jackson praised Walton for his understanding of the triangle and playing the game the right way. Walton, the son of Hall of Famer Bill, was a player development coach in the D-League this past season. Lue is an assistant coach on Doc Rivers' staff with the Clippers.

Jackson is very close to Brian Shaw, but he's the Nuggets coach and told the Denver Post he doesn't want to leave.

More experienced coaches are available, including Jeff Van Gundy, George Karl, Lionel Hollins and Mark Jackson. But they don't come from Jackson's inner circle.

Van Gundy said on ESPN radio, "I never said I wouldn't consider [the Knicks]."

It's hard to foresee Van Gundy working for Jackson, one of his biggest rivals when he coached the Knicks. But Van Gundy said on another ESPN radio show that the Knicks are in good hands with Jackson.

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"Sometimes you just got to take a step back, breathe, and trust that Phil Jackson knows what he's doing," Van Gundy said. "He may well coach himself, who knows. It will work out. They'll get somebody good. The Knicks will be fine."

With Marc Raimondi

 

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square

Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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