The Knicks swung and missed on hiring Steve Kerr as the successor to the fired Mike Woodson. And now that the only candidate team president Phil Jackson publicly campaigned for is off the board, it’ll take someone with mass appeal and a winning NBA pedigree to soothe a fanbase left at the altar.
According to sources, the Knicks’ best offer was for four seasons and $20 million. The Warriors, who Kerr chose over the Knicks, countered with a five-year, $25 million deal. Kerr, who has West Coast ties, was impressed with the Warriors’ burgeoning future that’s led by All-Star point guard Stephen Curry, as well as the proximity his new employer is to his family.
The thoughtful Kerr used words like “agonizing” when discussing why he spurned Jackson and the Knicks for the Warriors.
Kerr, who was in contract talks with the Knicks for almost three weeks, said ultimately working in the Bay Area near his family was the deciding factor.
“It just felt like the right move on many levels,” Kerr said. “They [Warriors] have a good young team [and] the location is ideal. My daughter goes to Cal and plays volleyball. My oldest son is in college in San Diego and our youngest is a junior in high school.”
Now, it’s back to square-one for the Zen Master.
Here is a list of five candidates Jackson will likely turn to as an alternative to Kerr …
1. Mark Jackson
He doesn’t fit Phil Jackson’s profile of what he wants in a coach, as Mark can be opinionated, strong-willed and a bit surly — all qualities that allegedly led to his firing in Golden State. But what the former Knicks point guard may lack in people skills, he makes up for it with a winning track record. Knicks fans would immediately embrace him and the fact he’s close with impending free-agent Carmelo Anthony helps.
2. Brian Shaw
Phil Jackson has shown he’d like to pursue candidates he’s familiar with and who have an intimate knowledge of the Triangle offense. Shaw, who played for Jackson as a Laker and later served as an assistant coach on his bench, matches the criteria. Shaw just finished his first season as head coach of the Nuggets, so if Jackson were to reach out, the Knicks would need to offer the Nuggets compensation to acquire him.
3. Derek Fisher
Fisher is a “Jackson guy” and knows what he is looking for in a coach and system. Fisher won five NBA titles as Jackson’s point guard and de facto coach on the floor and knows the Triangle offense. He’s well-respected around the league and with a playing career that will end once the Thunder are done with the playoffs, Fisher’s career and reputation as a winner would resonate with today’s player. Despite not having the experience, what helps Fisher’s cause is what Jason Kidd did in Brooklyn during his first season as a head coach. Plus, as a neophyte head coach, the Knicks won’t be cornered into breaking the bank for Fisher’s services.
4. Tom Thibodeau
Like Shaw, Thibodeau remains under contract with the Bulls for the next three seasons, so to even speak with him the Knicks would need permission beforehand. And if contact talks materialized and an agreement was met, the Knicks would be required to offer some sort of compensation. A Thibodeau departure is not out of the question considering the animosity and criticism both the coach and Bulls’ front office have had for each other over the years. The feud rekindled last season when the Bulls released the coach’s top assistant, Ron Adams. Thibodeau was well-liked by most during his time as a Knicks assistant coach under Jeff Van Gundy, so he would have no problem reacquainting himself with the area and adjusting to the pressure of the job and market.
5. Ty Lue
He may be a longshot and a relative unknown to Knicks fans, but Lue, 37, will definitely be on Jackson’s radar. Lue, currently a top assistant on Doc Rivers’ Clippers bench, played for Jackson in Los Angeles for two seasons, winning two rings. Lue, like Fisher, is well-respected, well-versed in the Triangle offense and popular among today’s players. He also served on Rivers’ championship-winning Celtics squad as an assistant coach and director of basketball development, so he’s put in the time, paid his dues, has a championship pedigree and grinded his way up the coaching ladder.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.