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Knicks’ coaching search includes at least 8 candidates

Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry

Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry answer questions from the media at the Knicks training facility in Tarrytown on Thursday. Credit: Errol Anderson

The Knicks are searching far and wide for their next coach.

Team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry have done interviews on the East Coast and the West Coast and will meet with former Cavaliers coach David Blatt this week in Europe. While they’re overseas, they’re expected to scout some European players, including Slovenian guard Luka Doncic, who is projected to be a high lottery pick.

A big date on the Knicks’ offseason calendar is May 15. That’s when the NBA Draft Lottery will be held and they’ll learn where they’re picking after finishing with the league’s ninth-worst record. Whether they will have a coach in place by then remains to be seen, but if they don’t, it won’t be from lack of effort.

Perry promised that the Knicks would do their “due diligence” and hold a “very open” coaching search. He wasn’t kidding.

To this point, the Knicks have spoken with Jerry Stackhouse, Mark Jackson, Mike Woodson, David Fizdale, Kenny Smith and Mike Budenholzer about the vacancy created when Jeff Hornacek was fired on April 12. They also plan to interview Spurs assistant coach James Borrego, whose team is still in the playoffs.

Former Knicks president Phil Jackson interviewed fewer candidates in two coaching searches and went on vacation during the second one.

When Hornacek was fired after a 29-53 finish, the Knicks’ two lead executives said they were looking for someone with strong defensive principles who will hold players accountable and can relate with and understand today’s NBA player.

“We’re going to be very open to exploring a number of different candidates with the number of qualities we’re looking for,” Perry said. “Not every person is going to check every single box that you’d like to check. But we’ll find someone who will fit and carry out our rebuilding process.

“We’re going to do our due diligence and take the time to find the right guy.”

Mills stressed the importance of the coach being able to work well with him and Perry, which would make it seem as if they want a person with whom they have some familiarity.

“We need to find someone that understands that the three of us are in this together and this is a group effort,” Mills said. “It’s not an independent effort and we’re going to approach everything as a team and as an organizational way.”

Stackhouse, Woodson and Borrego have relationships with Perry from either Detroit or Orlando, where he worked in the front office. Woodson, a former Knicks coach, and Jackson, a Knicks point guard for seven seasons, were with the team when Mills was an executive. Smith is a Queens native and Blatt played with Mills at Princeton.

Budenholzer might be the best candidate on the list. He comes from a winning culture, having spent 17 years as an assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio before guiding the Hawks to four playoff berths in his first five years in Atlanta. But he’s under contract for two more years with the Hawks. It doesn’t make sense for the rebuilding Knicks to give up draft picks as compensation.

Blatt had trouble earning the players’ respect when he coached the Cavaliers. He was fired midway through his second season with Cleveland.

Blatt, who coached his Turkish team to the Eurocup championship this year, made it clear in a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that he wants another shot at the NBA.

“I want to try to return to the NBA, because I feel like I hadn’t realized my potential there,” he said. “But even if it doesn’t happen, I will return to help my teams realize their potential even if it’s the EuroLeague.”

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