Phil Jackson a little coy about Derek Fisher as front-runner

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

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Phil Jackson said he had a verbal commitment from Steve Kerr to be the Knicks' coach but that he let him out of it when the Golden State Warriors' job became available.

Kerr's change of heart is expected to lead to Jackson offering Derek Fisher the job sometime after the Thunder's season ends. The Knicks' president acknowledged Friday that Fisher is a candidate.

"He definitely is a person that's on my list of guys that could be very good candidates for this job," said Jackson, who indicated that he doesn't expect the search to go into July.

During a 40-minute session with Knicks beat reporters, Jackson made it clear that he favors someone who is short on experience, long on leadership and a friend. That would seem to rule out more established coaches such as Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Lionel Hollins.

"I'd like to have a prior relationship with a coach so that we know that we've gone through some kind of issues together," Jackson said. "We've dealt with some kind of battle situations. We've had conflicts, we've had disagreements and we know how to work things out."

Fisher fits that description, just as Kerr did. Kerr, who lives in California, was set to be the Knicks' coach but couldn't pass on an opportunity to stay close to home. Jackson didn't stand in his way.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"He committed to me the day before the job opened with Golden State," he said. "So I had to kind of release him to actually go to this job and say you have to do what's right for yourself."

Now Jackson waits for Fisher. The Thunder trails the Spurs 3-2 in the Western Conference finals, with Game 6 Saturday night in Oklahoma City. Fisher and his family live in Los Angeles, so it's possible he won't want to move across the country either.

Jackson said he has interviewed other "unnamed" candidates. He said he wouldn't pursue Nuggets coach Brian Shaw because he doesn't want to give Denver any compensation.

Jackson didn't rule out a college coach, but it's more likely to be someone from his inner circle. Other possibilities as a head or assistant coach include Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons, Rick Fox, Luke Walton, Bill Cartwright and Ron Harper.

Jackson is the best coach in the organization, but he reiterated that he's not up to it physically.

"Unless the Lord heals me in the next week or two," he said, "I wouldn't see myself being physically prepared to take on the grind of coaching a basketball team right now."

If he were to hire an inexperienced coach, Jackson said it was "suggested" to him that he spend time on the bench mentoring him, but he isn't interested.

"It's been suggested to me to do that type of break-in period or something like that," Jackson said. "That doesn't sit right with me right now."

Subscribe to Newsday’s sports newsletter for stories, photos and videos about your favorite New York teams plus national sports news and events.

Comments

Newsday.com now uses Facebook for our comment boards. Please read our guidelines and connect your Facebook account to comment.

You also may be interested in: