Phil Jackson won't coach Knicks, but Steve Kerr might
GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Phil Jackson said he plans to speak with Steve Kerr about the Knicks' coaching vacancy before the end of the month and that the two "have a strong connection."
Kerr is the leading candidate to replace Mike Woodson, who was fired Monday. Kerr will be in New York this weekend working the Nets-Raptors playoff game for TNT. It's possible Jackson, the Knicks' president, could meet with Kerr then.
But Jackson said Wednesday there is no timetable for naming Woodson's successor. He initially said he hopes within a month or so, but then said before summer league begins in July.
One thing is certain: Jackson ruled himself out. Kerr, who never has coached before, was the only candidate Jackson discussed Wednesday.
"I know philosophically we have a strong connection," Jackson said. "Whether he's able to take a job like this, I don't know. I'll get in the conversation with him later on this month and talk to him about it, and see where he's at as far as his desire to coach, and come out in this direction."
Kerr lives in San Diego, so he may not want to head east. There could be openings in California, depending on what the Lakers and Warriors do with their coaches.
But the appeal of New York, the money and working with Jackson might be too good to pass up.
Derek Fisher, who played on five championship teams with Jackson in Los Angeles, could be another candidate when the Thunder's season ends.
"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."
Other candidates who could work for the Knicks in some capacity include Ron Harper, Jim Cleamons, Frank Hamblen and Bill Cartwright.
Kerr was part of three championship teams under Jackson with the Bulls. He knows the ins and outs of the triangle offense. The two remained close after Kerr went to San Antonio and won two more rings.
Jackson said he first talked to Kerr about coaching when he was set to become the president of the Seattle franchise had the Sacramento Kings relocated there. Kerr said he wasn't ready then. Jackson said they spoke again in January and Kerr wanted to talk about coaching.
Jackson acknowledged there are "some very good coaches that are out of work." But he added that New York "demands" someone with "personality" and with "charismatic appeal and has a forward-looking idea about the game."
"We get caught up in replicating what others do," Jackson said. "I'm not looking for a coach to do that."
Jackson, an 11-time NBA champion as a coach, said he's done with coaching. He said his fiancee, Lakers executive Jeanie Buss, tried encouraging him last week to coach the Knicks, but he's not interested.
"If there's anyone who can encourage me to do anything, it's Jeanie Buss," Jackson said. "But I was able to withstand her arguments the whole time. I've made up my mind on that, willful in that regard. Right now I know physically what I can do. That's something I don't think physically that I can do."
Jackson also refuted a report that he and Madison Square Garden executive chairman James Dolan have had friction regarding basketball decisions. Dolan said Jackson would have full autonomy in the basketball department.
"As far as Jim Dolan's promise or his premise when I took this job that's he's going to leave basketball decisions up to me, really, he's been loyal to that promise," Jackson said. "Going forward from last week through this week, just wanting to talk to Mike when we were through talking to him, the staff, it's all our decision. He's been very true to his word to this point."
The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square
Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.