Two weeks ago Phil Jackson met with Steve Kerr to discuss becoming the new New York Knicks coach, and it looks like Phil still has some work to do in closing the deal.
While there have been multiple
reports tweets of Kerr leaning towards New York, his leverage has no doubt increased since that first dinner with Phil. With two marquee coaching vacancies opening up with the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors, both in Kerr’s home state of California, the Knicks now have to contend with other teams that can also offer attractive deals for Kerr. However as the playoffs continue to shape an interesting offseason for many teams, new coaching options for the Knicks can also become available.
One of the more popular candidates for the Knicks coaching position is Mark Jackson. Well, at least according to New York favorite actor/director Michael Rapaport that is. If you are a basketball fan chances are you might have heard him plead to Phil to go after Mark Jackson on the latest Bill Simmons podcast.
As a native New Yorker and serious Knicks fan, Rapaport does have some valid points and probably can speak for a large portion of Knick fans when he says New York would love having Mark back. Mark Jackson, a former Rookie of the Year as a Knick, returning would certainly make for a great story. The fact that the Knicks originally passed on him when he first became interested in coaching, players love him, he’s a media favorite, and his success with the Warriors all make Mark Jackson the kind of name that should be right in the Knicks’ wheelhouse. After all, compared to Kerr, Jackson is the only one that can point to an actual coaching resume and is undoubtedly the bigger personality New Yorkers typically gravitate to.
Not so fast. As much as I love Rapaport and respect Mark Jackson, I still think Kerr is the better fit for Phil’s Knicks and here’s why. Going after the biggest name out there is something the Knicks have done for years and has almost always turned into an unmitigated disaster. Thankfully Phil is not as myopic and headline hungry as Dolan is.
One thing I’ve learned over these past few years about coaching staffs is that despite what happens on the court, its imperative to have some kind of harmony between the front office and the head coach. Look no further than the last big coaching name the Knicks brought in when Larry Brown arguably ushered in the most disappointing Knicks season ever. I’m still recovering from the embarrassment of that season, to be honest.
Phil doesn’t seem to be interested in bringing in people he doesn’t have a personal relationship with, and Mark Jackson can be the kind of personality that can easily create a fissure between impassioned players and a team president that probably won’t be much of a daily presence to them. Actually, you don’t have to look any further than the Warriors themselves who are still smoldering after the shock of their announcement of Jackson’s firing a few days ago. Despite the players’ spiritual connection to Jackson, you can’t help but get the feeling he aligned himself so much with his team that it could have even contributed to an “us vs. them” mentality that might have irked the upper brass of the Warriors. This is the kind of theater that isn’t needed in New York and Kerr represents the antithesis of that.
Phil won’t ever coach again but Kerr is perhaps the closest extension of his presence on the sideline. With next year being a transitional year for the Knicks, and perhaps not having much expectation at all, it’s the perfect opportunity for Kerr to get the tutelage he needs from Phil in turning their “philosophical connection” into some tangible coaching techniques. With the roster needing as much work as it does, its going to be important for the head coach and the team president to not just be on the same page, but to also trust and respect each other. This is why I think the sum of Phil and Kerr is greater than Phil and M. Jackson.
Of course just because Phil and Kerr know each other doesn’t guarantee success (see the Phil Jackson coaching tree) it would seem to be the more stable of relationships needed in MSG while free agents around the league will be looking at what the first official year of Phil’s reign yields when the season is over and massive amounts of cap space finally becomes available to fill a new roster for the future. So while it’s easy to look at Mark Jackson’s big name and passionate coaching as something very attractive to New York City, it’s probably not the best fit for the Phil era New York Knicks.
Follow and Like Buckets Over Broadway on Twitter and Facebook.