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Steve Kerr: Phil Jackson wants to build a franchise

Phoenix Suns general manager Steve Kerr discusses the

Phoenix Suns general manager Steve Kerr discusses the NBA basketball team's acquisition of center Shaquille O'Neal at US Airways Center in Phoenix. on Feb. 6, 2008. Credit: AP / Matt York

Phil Jackson hasn't accepted the Knicks' offer to run their basketball department yet. But if and when he does more changes are expected.

Although Mike Woodson has one year remaining on his contract, Jackson likely would want to bring in his own coach. There already is speculation that Steve Kerr, who played for Jackson in Chicago, could be a top candidate.

Out of respect for Woodson, Kerr wouldn't express interest for a job that's not currently available.

"I understood the speculation, because I said publicly that I'd like to coach," Kerr told Newsday Tuesday during a CBS/Turner breakfast previewing the NCAA Tournament. "Then obviously there's my relationship with Phil. So people put that together and all of a sudden I come to New York and my phone was blowing up.

"So I understand it, but it's not something I want to discuss. It's sort of unfair. Put it this way: I'm very uncomfortable talking about a job that doesn't exist and one that is occupied by someone that I have a lot of respect for. So I'm not even going to go down that road."

Reports continue to circulate that Jackson is close to taking the job, and that the Knicks believe he will.

Jackson has won an NBA-record 11 titles as a coach and was with the Knicks when they won their only two championships. He has no front-office experience, but Kerr said his former coach wants to run a franchise.

"Well, I've stayed in touch with Phil over the years and I know just from being with him at times that this is what he wants to do is build a franchise," Kerr said.

If he joins the Knicks, Jackson could bring in his own general manager to handle the day-to-day work because it is unclear if he would relocate from California to New York. Steve Mills is the Knicks' president and general manager, but his role may change if Jackson is on board.

The Knicks hope Jackson can make the transition from the bench to the front office the way Pat Riley has in Miami. Onetime Knick Greg Anthony believes Jackson can.

"I would love it," Anthony told Newsday. "He's a former Knick. He was a part of the best era of New York Knick basketball, having won world championships there, and I think his track record in everything he's done within the game is pretty obvious when you look at it.

"As a player he's a champion. As a head coach he's won more championships than anybody. How would he not be able to allow that to translate to success from a front-office perspective? And it also gives that organization tremendous credibility, which is equally as important, I think, as what he's going to do tangibly."

Jackson would have what some may view as a herculean task to turn the Knicks into a championship contender quickly considering their situation.

Carmelo Anthony will be a free agent this summer. The Knicks have no draft picks until 2015, and unless they unload the contracts of Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani they'll have little room to sign anyone this offseason. As of now the Knicks should have cap space to sign at least one max player in 2015.

Charles Barkley, who has been a harsh critic of the Knicks in the past, thinks Jackson could make a difference, but he needs time and New York fans need to be patient.

"He won't be able to fix this team for a few years," Barkley said. "You have a bunch of bad contracts. Sometimes you have to take a step back.

"Listen, what is Phil going to do? Carmelo might leave. If Carmelo doesn't leave, he's going to have a big number on your cap. You're still stuck with Amar'e's contract, J.R. Smith's contract. Raymond Felton. I mean, what are they going to do?"

The Knicks are still trying to make a late and improbable playoff push. They go for their fifth straight win Wednesday night in Boston. They're 3½ games out of the last playoff spot with 17 to play.

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