Phil Jackson is trying to change the culture of the New York Knicks. Which seems a lot like the job Sisyphus had, but Jackson is trying. This has been easily the most secrative, paranoid organization in the NBA, one that guarded the mundane as if it were classified troop locations in Afganistan.
Jackson’s arrival brought hope to New York fans, but his arrival has not seen the hiring of a sexy new coach — or any coach — and Carmelo Anthony hasn’t been swayed from testing the free agent market. Neither of which is really a big deal, but when you’ve been expected to walk across the Hudson and turn water into wine — or convert the Knicks roster into a contender — any setback real or imagined becomes a story.
Jackson broke with tradition and spoke to the media again on Thursday, as reported by Ian Begley at ESPNNewYork.com.
Those topics started with this: No, he’s not going to coach the Knicks. For the millionth time no.
On the prospect of Jackson himself taking over the team, the 13-time world champion said, “at this point, unless the Lord heals me” he wouldn’t be physically able to coach.
He said that the idea he could coach for one season as a “transition period” and hand over the reins to another coach next year has been discussed. But Jackson said that’s not an idea that he’s comfortable with.
What Jackson reiterated is he wants a coach he has worked with before. And yes, that means he is waiting on Derek Fisher (who is a tad busy still as the backup point guard of the Oklahoma City Thunder).
(Jackson) also addressed the Knicks’ ongoing coaching search, saying that he has interviewed several candidates. He referred to Thunder guard Derek Fisher as “a person that’s on my list of guys that could be very good candidates for this job.”
As for the one that got away — Steve Kerr — Jackson said he thought he had a deal in place but that all turned when Mark Jackson was fired in Golden State.
“Unfortunately for him, he committed to me the day before the job opened with Golden State. So I had to kind of release him to actually go to this job and say you have to do what’s right for yourself,” Jackson said. “I understood entirely the process he was going through to have that job open up. That was something he kind of thought would be a good fit for him. So that’s good, we’re happy for him.”
There were also questions about the Knicks other big issue this summer — Carmelo Anthony becoming a free agent. Anthony almost certainly will test the free agent waters this summer (he reportedly said he wants the “full Dwight Howard treatment” in terms of being recruited” but Jackson is trying to talk him out of that.
Jackson said Friday that he has talked to Anthony about the possibility of opting in to the final year of his deal and testing free agency in the summer of 2015, to which Anthony said he’d “think about it.”
Jackson said he “not losing sleep” over the idea Anthony could bolt this summer — the Bulls and Rockets are among a number of teams expected to make a run — but he is concerned Anthony could leave. If so, he says they will rebuild without him.
No Anthony would mean a very rough next season in New York, but clearing the decks of salary by the summer of 2015 could be a cleaner path to a total restructuring of this roster. Which is needed.