Knicks president Phil Jackson spoke to the media for the first time since firing head coach Mike Woodson on Monday.
And while the executive said there’s “no news” yet on his search for a new coach, Jackson did admit there is a list — led by Steve Kerr.
Jackson would not divulge the other names on the list, but did allow that he’ll reach out to Kerr later this month. Kerr played for Jackson while on the Bulls in the late 1990s and was president of basketball operations for the Suns.
“Steve and I talked a year ago when Seattle had bought the rights to the Sacramento Kings,” Jackson said, also admitting that the two met once in January. “Philosophically, we have a strong connection. Whether he’s able to take a job like this I don’t know.”
Jackson acknowledged had the Seattle deal gone through, Kerr would’ve been the head coach because he fits the criteria for what he wants in a coach. Jackson wants to run the Triangle offense, and there aren’t many people associated with the league today who know it as well as Kerr, who also has charisma and people skills.
Kerr’s playing career ended relatively recently, having retired at the end of the 2003 season. And that’s another factor, according to Jackson, that contributes to Kerr being able to easily relate to today’s NBA player.
“We’re looking for a leader, someone that can bring out the best in players. New York demands a personality, a person that the fans can believe in and Steve has a charismatic appeal,” said Jackson. “We want to emphasize ball movement and player movement with a purpose.”
Ball movement wasn’t Woodson’s strong suit, as he hitched his ride to the fortunes of Carmelo Anthony — a scoring machine who can also be a hindrance to ball flow as he preferred the isolation offense.
When asked about Anthony’s likely free agency this summer when he can opt out of his deal, Jackson said he wants the All-Star forward to return, but his longterm plan won’t deviate depending on Anthony’s decision.
“I’m all about moving forward,” Jackson said. “And if it’s in the cards, man are we fortunate, and if it’s it not in the cards, man are we fortunate, and then we’re moving on.”
The man known as the Zen Master has always preached the greater good for a team, dating back to his championship playing days with the Knicks in the 1970s to his championship reign as an 11-time winner as head coach. During each phase of his basketball career, Jackson has been a part of franchises that stressed team over self, whether that meant sharing the ball in an equal-opportunity offense, or taking less in a contract so management can spread the wealth and attract other players to fit the program.
Jackson broached both topics to Anthony, ever since the player declared during All-Star Weekend he’d give strong consideration to taking less money to stay if he felt the Knicks had a solid plan to build a winner.
“I hope he stays true to his word,” Jackson said, noting that other champions in recent past have sacrificed money so that management would have more flexibility to add talent around the franchise player.
Anthony will opt out of his contract and become a free agent July 1. The Knicks can give him a five-year deal worth roughly $129 million, which will be about $34 million more than other team can offer.
Jackson said it’d be “beneficial” for Anthony to take a pay cut, citing Tim Duncan with the Spurs and LeBron James with the Heat.
“There’s precedence for it. Look at the Spurs. They’ve built a dynasty, well, maybe not a dynasty because they haven't been able to win consecutive championships, but they’ve been a force,” Jackson said.
But before Knicks fans get their hopes up about the possibility of Anthony taking a pay cut, he could also do that with Chicago, Miami or Houston. Those three franchises are already playoff winners and championship contenders with likely brighter futures if they were to add someone like Anthony.
Knicks notes ...
Jackson says his fiancée, Lakers part owner and president Jeanie Buss, “encouraged” him to coach the Knicks, but that his 68-year-old body won’t let him do it.
“No, I’ve made up my mind on that,” Jackson said. “Right now I know physically what I can do [and] that’s something I don’t think physically that I can do.”
- While Jackson would confirm Kerr as the only candidate, the other rumored options who have ties with him as either a former player or assistant are Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis, Scottie Pippen and Jim Cleamons.
- Jackson said contrary to reports he has full say over who he hires and fires on the coaching staff and that he’ll work with his next head coach to assemble a staff. He added that once his head coach is in place, they’ll “both have veto power.”
- One guy who was already brought on board is Clarence Gaines Jr., who has been working with the club for the past two weeks. Gaines is the son of legendary coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines.
Follow Knicks beat writer Tony Williams on Twitter @TBone8.