Phil Jackson didn't get his man.
In a stunning turn of events Wednesday night, Steve Kerr spurned his former coach and good friend and passed on the Knicks' coaching job. Kerr instead accepted a position to coach the Golden State Warriors, his agent Mike Tannenbaum said.
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It was long expected that Kerr would be the Knicks' next coach. The TNT analyst was the leading candidate and likely the only one. Jackson handpicked his former guard to be his first coach as Knicks president. Jackson hasn't interviewed any other candidates.
Jackson and Tannenbaum, the former Jets GM, had been negotiating a deal, and it was expected something would be finalized this week. But after losing out on Stan Van Gundy, the Warriors swooped in at the 11th hour and apparently offered Kerr a better package than did the Knicks.
Kerr -- who has no coaching experience -- agreed to a five-year, $25-million contract with the Warriors. It was reported that the Knicks had offered him a four-year deal.
The Warriors were a 51-win playoff team this season. The Knicks are in flux with Carmelo Anthony's future in doubt. Kerr resides in California, and also gets to be close to home and to his daughter, who attends Cal-Berkeley.
"Ultimately, it was agonizing to say no to Phil because of what I think of him and what he's done for my career," Kerr told NBA.com. "When Phil Jackson asks you to coach the Knicks, how do you say no? I think they're going to turn it around, but it's going to be a big undertaking and it's going to take time. The idea of doing that 3,000 miles from home, it just didn't feel right."
With Kerr gone, Jackson will look for someone to help implement his triangle offense. So the coach he taps to replace Mike Woodson will have to be well versed in it.
Derek Fisher, Jackson's point guard on five championship Lakers teams, is a likely candidate when the Thunder's season is over.
Jackson said he is looking for "a leader," and someone "who has charismatic appeal, and has a forward-looking idea about the game." Fisher also has been a vocal leader and was the president of the NBA players union.
Kurt Rambis, an assistant under Jackson with the Lakers and former head coach, also is a possibility.
Bill Cartwright has head coaching experience, too. But he had been a candidate to be an assistant under Kerr. Cartwright has been in contact with Jackson. Jim Cleamons, Frank Hamblen and Ron Harper also could join the Knicks in some capacity. There are some big-name coaches available, including Jeff Van Gundy, Lionel Hollins and Mark Jackson. They are not a part of the Phil Jackson tree, though.
Jackson was banking on Kerr joining him in New York, and it was believed he would come because of their strong relationship. Kerr was mentioned as a candidate long before Woodson was fired. People close to Kerr repeatedly pointed to his "allegiance to Phil."
The Warriors contacted Kerr right after they fired Mark Jackson last week. But at the time it appeared he was heading to the Knicks, so they began pursuing Stan Van Gundy.
But Golden State made a last-ditch pitch to Kerr after Van Gundy passed on the Warriors to become the coach and president of basketball operations of the Pistons, and they ultimately got their man.
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