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Billy King: Search is underway, starts with Phil Jackson

Phil Jackson walks off the court after a

Phil Jackson walks off the court after a halftime ceremony of a game against the Milwaukee Bucks honoring the 1973 championship Knicks team on April 5, 2013. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Billy King is ready to chat it up with Phil Jackson and see if the man with 11 rings wants to coach the Nets.

The Nets general manager admitted the search is now officially underway for P.J. Carlesimo’s successor and it’s going to start by gauging Jackson’s interest. King suggested he’s still awaiting Jackson’s response to the inquiry, which was reported by Monday.

“As I’ve said, we would reach out and see,” King said on WFAN’s “Joe & Evan Show” Tuesday. “Basically I want to talk to Phil and see what he’s going to do, what he wants to do and talk some basketball. There will be some other guys I’m going to do research on, and gather background on.

“The process has started, I will tell you that.”

King said Sunday that he wouldn’t essentially rule any candidate out, other than Duke coach Mike Kyzyzewski since he didn’t want the alumni at his alma mater to get mad at him. But Tuesday, King didn’t dance around the notion that Jackson is the Nets’ top target.

“I just want to talk to Phil and get an idea what he’s looking to do,” King said, “and then from there, if he’s looking to go in a different direction and not coach, then I’ll say, ‘Ok, then I’ll move on.’ But it sounds like I’ve got to talk to him, got to look at it and say, ‘You’ve got 11 rings, you’re sitting on the sidelines.’ So, before you do anything, you’ve got to talk to him and just see does he want to coach.

“If he doesn’t, then that’s fine. But if he does, then I’d like to talk to him.”

When King signed a multi-year extension in the midst of the Nets’ first-round playoff series with the Bulls, some assumed it meant the Nets weren’t going to make a play for Jackson, given the rumblings about him supposedly wanting more of an executive role in dealing with player personnel.

Asked if he’d give up some power should Jackson seek to be more than just the team’s coach, King said: “That’s the one thing about it. I want to talk to Phil. I don’t want to go on reports because everybody can write reports, and there are a bunch of them are out there that’s been false about what we are doing. So, I want to talk to him.

“I don’t want to speculate and say, ‘Well this is what the reports say, so I’ve got to react to what the reports say. When I talk to him, then I’ll be able to answer the question from that point.”

Either way, King made it appear as if he wouldn’t necessarily be opposed to being in a situation where the coach has more than just simply a traditional role.

“I’ve always looked at it [as], when I have a head coach," King said, "it’s not a dictatorship where I say, 'Here are the players and you coach them.' Along with Avery [Johnson] or when I worked with Larry Brown, I tried to figure out the players they needed to be successful. It’s like hiring a chef. I’m not going to hire a great chef who’s an Italian cook and say, ‘Now, go cook me soul food.’ ”

King was also asked for his feelings on whether it’s worth it to trade assets if a team wanted compensation for allowing a coach to get out of his contract -- an indirect inquiry about Doc Rivers, given talk about his future and the Celtics possibly being dismantled.

“I think you’ve got to look at every situation and make the decision based on that situation,” King said. “... You’d have to look at it as a possibility. In football, it happened once. I think Oakland got a first-round pick from Tampa Bay for [Jon] Gruden, and he went there and won the championship.”

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