LOS ANGELES — Phil Jackson has a 15-year relationship with Kurt Rambis and would feel comfortable having him as the Knicks’ head coach when training camp opens in the fall. But Jackson wants to see growth from the team going forward.
“I have to see if this team moves or doesn’t move behind what goes on this season,” Jackson said Friday. “I think he’s perfectly capable of doing that.’’
In a wide-ranging 30-minute interview, the Knicks’ president expressed his commitment to turning the team around, saying “I’m in it to win it,” and said he will continue to build around Carmelo Anthony.
It certainly sounds as if Jackson wants Rambis to be the one drawing up the plays. But the Knicks fell to 4-9 under Rambis with a 101-94 loss to the Clippers on Friday night at Staples Center.
The Knicks (27-40) erased a 15-point third-quarter deficit to tie the score midway through the fourth quarter but couldn’t pull off the upset despite 23 points from Kristaps Porzingis, 20 points and 19 rebounds from Robin Lopez and 20 points from Anthony. Chris Paul had 24 points and 15 assists and J.J. Redick added 20 points for the Clippers.
Jackson is closer to Rambis than he was to Derek Fisher. He said Rambis calls him after games to discuss certain plays and strategies, which Fisher didn’t. They have similar philosophies and beliefs, and he likes that Rambis has a defensive mentality. Rambis was Jackson’s “defensive coordinator” for the Lakers’ last two championship teams.
All of this is why Jackson apparently would like to remove the interim tag from Rambis’ job title. But Jackson said he wants to see how players develop under Rambis.
“He knows the ins and outs, what pleases me and probably what I want to have changed,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to get ourselves going in this season with young players that have to have an opportunity to play now in this season. We’re losing the possibility of the playoffs. We have to see growth for next year.”
Jackson has said he isn’t married to the triangle offense but does believe in playing a system. Former Cavaliers coach David Blatt, who played in the Princeton offense with Knicks general manager Steve Mills, could be a dark-horse candidate. But Jackson is giving Rambis every chance to earn this job.
He said under Rambis, the Knicks have been “inconsistent” and have looked “lethargic,” and he believes there has been “depression due to not being a playoff-bound team.”
Jackson said he met with the team about a week and a half ago to talk about some things he thought needed to change, and believes they have.
The Knicks showed fight against the Clippers, but they’re 44-105 since Jackson became president, and the losing has taken a toll on Anthony.
Jackson said he met with Anthony individually during this trip. He said he likes the way Anthony has played this season and still considers him a cornerstone player for the Knicks.
Anthony, who has been frustrated because the Knicks likely will miss the playoffs for the third straight year, wanted to know about the direction of the franchise. Jackson considered it a productive conversation.
“We went through all the things,” Jackson said. “Disappointment. He sees the potential that we have. He has questions about where we’re going. So we discussed it. The details we discussed have to be between us.
“Sometimes you have to solicit things out of Carmelo. In my conversation, I didn’t. He came out and asked questions. I always think engagement is important, and he was engaged, and that’s important.’’
Anthony has a no-trade clause in his contract and Jackson said he’s confident Anthony wants to remain in New York. “Yeah,” he said. “There’s never been any other discussion.”
Jackson also discussed his own future. He is said to miss the Los Angeles weather and lifestyle, and there has been speculation that he could leave the Knicks after this season. But Jackson, who signed a five-year deal in 2014, said he’s focused on righting the ship.
“I’m in L.A. right now,” he said. “I’m enjoying it. I went out and rode my bike yesterday, did some things that were really nice to do. But this is another part of my life. The energy that I have is directed toward turning this team around, and it’s taken my full effort. So far it’s been a challenge, and I’m still in it. I’m in it to win it, so to speak.”