The Knicks lost out on their initial head coaching target when Steve Kerr chose to take the job with the Warriors instead, possibly due to the initial lowball offer he received and extended negotiations with New York that allowed Golden State to swoop in.
The Lakers, meanwhile, haven’t yet started their head coaching search, primarily because there are too many uncertainties with the roster right now to determine who exactly the right person would be to put in charge.
Both teams, however, appear to have at least one of the same names somewhere on their respective lists of candidates.
While one source close to the situation said Dunleavy is not at the top of Jackson’s list, the source acknowledged that Dunleavy is indeed a candidate.
Dunleavy, who has coached four NBA teams over 17 years, is also a candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers’ job, according to a source.
Dunleavy has had a friendly relationship with Jackson since their playing days in the 1970s. With both living in Los Angeles, they have periodically met for lunch over the years.
The New York Post reported that Knicks president of basketball operations Phil Jackson met with Dunleavy over breakfast at a hotel in Chicago on Friday, the site of the NBA’s Draft Combine.
Just as it did when Jackson was considering Kerr to coach the Knicks, it makes sense that he would do the same with Dunleavy given their prior relationship. Jackson needs a familiar face on the sidelines that he trusts in order to have his philosophies trickle down to the players, and Dunleavy has proven to be a capable head coach in a variety of circumstances.
For the Lakers, the hiring of Dunleavy would be a short-term move aimed at trying to win now while Kobe Bryant remains on the roster. Bryant has two years left on his deal, and the only way the hiring of an aging coach like Dunleavy would make sense is if L.A. is somehow able to re-load with a ton of talent this summer, to the point where the Lakers are able to elevate themselves to the level of contenders once again.
Frankly, the L.A. scenario feels like a long shot. But the connection Dunleavy has with Jackson might make a job with the Knicks a real possibility — even if it ultimately ends up being in the front office rather than on the sidelines.
Dunleavy has coached 17 NBA seasons with four different teams, most recently with the Clippers from 2003-10. He coached the Lakers against Jackson’s Bulls in the 1991 NBA Finals, which was the year that Jackson won the first of his 11 championships as a head coach.