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Phil Jackson has many coaching candidates from his inner circle

Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson watches

Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson watches during the second half of a game between the Knicks and Nets on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in New York. The Knicks won the game 110-81. Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II

The initial shock of Steve Kerr turning down the Knicks has worn off by now. But it gave many fans hope that one of three men will be the next coach of the Knicks: Phil Jackson, Mark Jackson or Jeff Van Gundy.

All three would be great choices, but it would be a surprise if any was on the Knicks' bench next season.

It's unlikely that Phil Jackson, the Knicks' president of basketball operations, will appoint himself. He has said his health won't allow him to go through the everyday grind and travel and everything that goes with being a coach. Besides, he needs to focus heavily on the roster because it is not even close to being a championship contender.

It's also not expected that Jackson will go outside of his circle of trust, and Mark Jackson and Van Gundy -- now both analysts for ESPN -- never have been in it.

"I think he'll stick with someone he knows," a league official said.

Jackson wants to install the vaunted triangle offense. He would need someone fluent in triangle and able to teach it, which made Kerr his top candidate. But Kerr chose Golden State, and now Jackson is expected to turn to some old friends.

Some never have coached, others haven't been successful head coaches, but they all won with Jackson and know exactly what he wants from his players and his team.

Derek Fisher: Considered the top candidate now. Fisher, 39, knows all aspects of the triangle, and fits every description that Jackson is looking for in a coach: leadership, personality and charisma. He also should have the respect of the players and be able to relate to them.

Fisher was the point guard and a key player on five Lakers' championship teams. He's made an impact on other playoff teams, too. No one has appeared in more postseason games than Fisher, who is expected to retire after this season.

But Fisher is in the Western Conference finals with the Thunder, hoping to end his playing career with a sixth championship. It's unclear if he wants to go right from playing to coaching. If he did, Fisher would get experienced guys on his staff and he would always have Jackson to be the ultimate consigliere.

Kurt Rambis: A former coach with a career record of 56-145 with the Lakers and Timberwolves.

Rambis has nine championships as a player, executive and assistant, all with the Lakers. The last four came as Jackson's assistant.

He coached the Lakers to a 24-13 record and the second round of the playoffs in 1999. But he was ultimately replaced by Jackson, who guided the Lakers to the championship the following season.

Rambis worked in the front office for that season, and joined Jackson's staff the following year. Rambis is a trusted friend of Jackson's. In his second stint as Lakers coach, Jackson rehired Rambis so he believes in him and his ability to teach the triangle.

Rambis is under contract for one more season as a Lakers assistant, so the Knicks would need permission to speak to him.

Brian Shaw: He's the coach of the Nuggets, so if anything were to happen, the Knicks would have to compensate Denver. The Knicks don't have many first-round picks so giving one up for an unproven coach might not be prudent at this point.

But Shaw and Jackson are close. Shaw played for Jackson with the Lakers and coached under him. Jackson went to bat for Shaw when the Nets had an opening in 2010 that Avery Johnson ultimately filled. Shaw had a rough first year on the bench in Denver, finishing 36-46.

When his name surfaced as a possible Knicks candidate, Shaw told the Denver Post Thursday that he's happy where he is and wants to stay with the Nuggets. The organization has the final say on that.

Luke Walton: He played for Jackson for seven years, was part of two championships with the Lakers, and already has done some coaching.

Walton, the son of Hall of Fame center Bill Walton, worked as an assistant at the University of Memphis during the 2011 lockout and was a player development coach last season in the D-League.

In Jackson's latest book, "Eleven Rings," he wrote, "Luke had been immersed in basketball wisdom since early childhood," and praised his desire for "playing the game the right way," how he played within the triangle, and for being "one of the best facilitators on the team."

But will that translate to the bench or be the hire that convinces Carmelo Anthony to re-sign?

Jim Cleamons: Like Rambis, Cleamons doesn't have an impressive record as a coach -- 28-70 in one-plus season in Dallas. But he's closely linked to Jackson and may know him better than anyone in the NBA.

They were teammates with the Knicks in the 1970s and worked together three different times.

Cleamons was an assistant in Chicago for four championships before leaving to coach the Mavericks. He and Jackson reunited with the Lakers, where Cleamons assisted on three more title teams. After two years as an assistant in New Orleans, Cleamons returned to the Lakers and won two more rings.

He is an assistant with the Bucks now.

Bill Cartwright: The former first-round pick of the Knicks was Jackson's man in the middle for three championships in Chicago and an assistant for two more.

Cartwright was 51-100 in parts of three seasons as the Bulls' coach. He last coached in Japan, and would like to return to the NBA. He has talked to Jackson and was expected to be hired as an assistant for Kerr.

Tyronn Lue: The former Laker guard played on two of Jackson's championship teams. He's been working for Doc Rivers the last five years as an assistant coach. But Lue, a journeyman during his career, may not have the appeal to get Anthony to stay or to attract free agents.

Maybe Jackson will go away from his inner circle, but his history suggests otherwise.

Jackson already has brought in people from his past. He hired former Bulls scout Clarence Gaines Jr. to work in the basketball department. Jackson also signed former Laker Lamar Odom before the last game of the season.

The Dolan family owns controlling interests in the Knicks, Madison Square Garden and Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.

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