Phil Jackson's Credibility Questioned As Knicks Lose Out On Steve Kerr Pursuit
Knicks President Phil Jackson "suffered his first loss" yesterday when Steve Kerr, his "only choice to coach the team, agreed to a five-year deal" with the Warriors, according to Frank Isola of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. That Knicks Owner James Dolan, who has a "history of overpaying for coaches and executives, would draw a financial line in the sand with Kerr suggests that he was not thrilled with Jackson’s choice." Moreover, Kerr had done "extensive research on the inner workings of the Garden and was prepared, with Jackson’s blessing, to make major staff changes." A source close to Kerr said, "The Knicks' roster is not the problem. The organization is the problem. It's chaos. The culture there is hard to change because so many don't want it to change. They all protect their turf." The Knicks on Tuesday had "agreed to meet Kerr's contract demands, consenting to a fourth year on the same day" Warriors officials "traveled to Oklahoma City to meet with him." It is "unclear where Jackson will turn next" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/15). Kerr said, "It was so tantalizing on many levels. Number one, Phil Jackson. Number two, the Knicks are a flagship franchise, one of the great franchises in the league. The last two weeks have been agonizing, in talking with Phil and (general manager) Steve Mills. They've got really good people there and I do think they're going to get it turned around there. The Knicks could not have been better in giving me the space to make a decision, especially when I had a game to do every other night" (NBA.com, 5/14).
A 'BIG BLOW' TO CREDIBILITY: ESPN N.Y.'s Ian O'Connor wrote Jackson "could not afford to lose this season opener, the first game of his front-office life." O'Connor: "What a major blow to Jackson's credibility, one that had to drop the designated savior to his knees." Jackson either "failed to sell Kerr on all the beautiful basketball things they could do together," or he "failed to persuade" Dolan to overpay here (ESPNNY.com, 5/14). ESPN.com's Amin Elhassan wrote, "Whoever the Knicks' 'Plan B' is faces the stigma of not being 'Plan A.'" The "perception, regardless of whether it's fair or not, is reinforced that there is something toxic about the organization that is preventing it from being sustainably successful, and it's scaring away the top candidates, whether it's free-agent players or free-agent coaches." Perhaps the "most damaging indictment, however, is the fact" that the Knicks "got outbid for someone they wanted" (ESPN.com, 5/14).
NOT A GOOD START: In N.Y., Marc Berman writes losing out on Kerr marks an "ominous beginning" for Jackson. If Jackson "let Kerr get away, perhaps he is reconsidering coaching the team himself, which might be a blessing in disguise" (N.Y. POST, 5/15). Also in N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes, "For now, this is less about the result as about the process." It is "more about the way" Jackson "went about the business of wooing and recruiting Kerr." Vaccaro: "And what, exactly, he will really bring to the table -- or be able to bring there -- as the face, brain and soul of the Knicks." Unless Jackson has been "playing a splendid game of misdirection these past few weeks, the entirety of his search to replace Mike Woodson has amounted to one man: Kerr." Suddenly, the Knicks "remain without a coach and without a true Plan B" (N.Y. POST, 5/15). The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Chris Herring writes it is unclear whether Jackson is "willing to go outside his comfort zone to hire a coach" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/15). In N.Y., Mike Lupica writes, "Maybe this was all about money, and the Warriors offered another year, a fifth year, that the Knicks were not prepared to offer." Or maybe Kerr "played this perfectly and ended up getting the years and the money he wanted from the Warriors." Whatever "brought him to this moment, he ended up taking a better offer in all ways" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/15).
A BLESSING IN DISGUISE? In N.Y., Mitch Lawrence writes, "Not that [Dolan] is right about much of anything when it comes to this team, but if he wants a coach with previous experience and is going to pay top dollar, what’s wrong with that?" Kerr "seemed too nice to be able to deal" with the N.Y. media, as there is "no other coaching job in the NBA like being the Knicks’ coach." Lawrence: "So you had to take Jackson’s word that Kerr can coach and will have the necessary toughness to succeed." But that "doesn’t mean Kerr is going to be able to pull it off" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/15). ESPN N.Y.'s Stephen A. Smith wrote now that Kerr has chosen the Warriors, it is time for Jackson to "do what he should have done since the moment this season ended: Pick up the phone, call Mark Jackson." It "needs to be done in a hurry, because, quite honestly, the clock is ticking." Before Jackson "gets too comfortable, it's time someone tells him he'll look no better" than Dolan unless he "makes a splash quick, fast and in a hurry" (ESPNNY.com, 5/14).