|Madison Square Garden President James Dolan, Knicks President Phil Jackson, and Gerenal Manager Steve Mills.|
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Who can coach Jackson’s Knicks?
by rick olivares with photos by nathaniel butler nba/getty images
Phil Jackson is now President of the New York Knicks. “A power move” in the words of Carmelo Anthony. And James Dolan and the city of eight million are hoping that he can turn this moribund team into a winner. Dolan has gone on record to cede basketball matters to Jackson and general manager Steve Mills: "I'm happy now that we have the team of Phil and Steve to do that, and my whole job here now is supporting them to win a championship."
There’s no need to recount Jackson’s resume that is well known to every sports fan. Having said that. Let’s throw him an assist as he tries to figure out who will coach the Knicks for 2014-onwards (you don’t really think that Mike Woodson is staying, do you).
Before we list the candidates, Jackson already bared in broad terms what he hopes to lay out. First off, the culture of creating “Security of knowing they will be supported by the coaching staff and the organization. Developing a health record in which injuries are limited. Developing a mindset which focuses on a capability. Developing a system so that balls are moved and passes are made and people make cuts to create opportunities for teammates. These things are opportunity for me.”
With the latter statements, he pretty much said he is installing the triangle offense in the Big Apple.
Now who could be more familiar than that than some former players and protégés?
Steve Kerr has five NBA championship rings from his time in Chicago and San Antonio. Played for two of the all-time great coaches in Phil Jackson and Greg Popovich. Learned how to play with superstar players Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman in Chicago; and Tim Duncan, David Robinson, and Manu Ginobili in San Antonio. He worked in the capacity of the general manager of the Phoenix Suns from 2007-10 and was an basketball analyst for TNT and for Yahoo Sports.
In his first year in the Suns’ front office, Phoenix finished second in the Pacific (dropping from first the previous year). After his second year that saw the Suns continue to drop in terms of win-loss totals, Phoenix bounced back after fixing their coaching woes (Alvin Gentry became the full time head coach after transitioning from Terry Porter) in 2009-10. Kerr retired after that year.
In my opinion, that provides a wealth of experience and knowledge as well as a unique perspective that should help him should he get into coaching. He’s played for bad teams (Cleveland) and some darn good ones. He’s had some difficult teammates (Dennis Rodman and even Jordan to an extent) and some terrific ones (Scottie Pippen). Plus, Kerr played for Jackson for five years and knows how the Zen Master ticks. I have always thought that Kerr had an astute mind for the game.
He might come in as a rookie head coach but why not? They Knicks have had veteran coaches in the past few years in Mike D’Antoni and Mike Woodson and they never went anywhere.
Kurt Rambis has come from being one of the unsung heroes of 1980s Lakers’ Showtime to being a Jackson lieutenant. He did get a chance to briefly coach the Lakers in 1999 following Del Harris’ dismissal and parlayed that into Minnesota job for a couple of years but they were disastrous to say the least.
Currently a Lakers assistant, I don’t think Clark Kent will be making the trip eastward.
Now there aren’t too much other Jackson-people out there as Brian Shaw might be unavailable as he is in his first year with the Denver Nuggets so the Zen Master will have to look elsewhere and to some other coaches who aren’t too familiar with the triangle offense.
Byron Scott has had a relative successful career in coaching after a successful playing career with the Los Angeles Lakers and Indiana Pacers. But in all his head coaching stops, he got initial results with New Jersey, New Orleans, and Cleveland but wore everyone down. Sort of reminds me of Doug Collins. And both have been let go from their positions with acrimonious departures.
But make no mistake. Scott can get the job done. He took the Nets to the Finals. He also coached the Hornets to a Southwest Division title and won the Coach of the Year Award. With Cleveland, he had the misfortune of following a post-LeBron Cavs team that was terrible than terrible.
George Karl is another coach who can turn franchises around. He’s done that with Seattle then proved everyone wrong by going to a Denver Nuggets team that really didn’t have anyone.
Jackson should identify with Karl’s CBA roots where he won two Coach of the Year Awards with the Montana Golden Nuggets (Jackson is from Montana) and had a stint with the Albany Patroons (where Phil won his very first title as head coach). He took a Golden State Warriors team that won only 30 games the previous year to playoffs in his first year of coaching them.
Karl guided a Sonics team to the NBA Finals in 1995-96 where they lost to Jackson’s Bulls. With Milwaukee, Karl built a winner. And in Denver, his Nuggets were one of the best and he was honored with his first NBA Coach of the Year Award in 2013.
Stan Van Gundy is recharged after a couple of years away from professional coaching. He’s done well with the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic while earning a reputation as an outstanding good tactician. While he can turn moribund teams into contenders, getting them over the final hump is altogether another question. But an move to the east is a long shot as Van Gundy has stated a preference to stay in warmer climates.
If all fails, Jackson could possibly step down into the sidelines just to jumpstart the Knicks.