Jim Cleamons is currently an assistant coach with the Milwaukee Bucks, but he was a member of Phil Jackson’s coaching staff both in Chicago and Los Angeles, and has nine championship rings to show for it.
The Bucks happened to be in town to face the Knicks on Saturday, just one day after the news of Jackson joining the team’s front office became somewhat official.
Cleamons didn’t have much to say when asked about the possibility of a reunion with Jackson, but it makes too much sense not to be considered.
Cleamons was leery of speaking at length about Jackson since he already has been linked to the Knicks. Cleamons played two seasons for legendary Knicks coach Red Holzman as a point guard from 1977-79 and was Jackson’s teammate.
“Phil is bright. He understands the game. He’s going to put good people around him,’’ Cleamons said. “That’s my feeling. I know nothing else.’’ …
“I know the offense, but I don’t know what his plans are,’’ Cleamons said of Jackson trying to hire a coach who runs the Triangle. “I’m worried about the Milwaukee Bucks. You have to ask Phil that question.’’
Many believe Jackson will want to install a head coach familiar with the Triangle offense that was a staple of all of his championship teams, and Cleamons knows it as well as anyone. Whether in a head coaching role or as an assistant, he may be the active coach most qualified to teach it.
But even if the offense isn’t a consideration, the relationship is. For Jackson to put his stamp on the Knicks, he’ll need to have a coach in place he can trust to give him honest feedback about what’s truly going on with the team’s players — making the choice to add Cleamons in some capacity perhaps too easy to pass up.