Schmeelk: Too Early To Anoint Kerr — Or Anyone Else — As Knicks Coach
By John Schmeelk
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I got an interesting tweet from a Knicks fan after writing Monday’s column about Steve Kerr.
@BNR1986 pointed out how the franchise was rightly criticized by the media (including myself) for settling on Mike Woodson two offseasons ago without doing their due diligence and looking at every potential candidate. He added that the Knicks could be falling into a similar trap now by tabbing Kerr too early in the process.
It makes complete sense for the Knicks to wait until the end of the first round of the playoffs before making any sort of hire. As team president Phil Jackson said during Wednesday’s press conference, aside from losing your top candidate there really is no rush. There’s no telling who might shake loose after the first round. Just look at Frank Vogel, who according to media reports could be on the hot seat in Indiana. Tom Thibodeau is also a possibility if the Bulls get swept by the Wizards, but the chances of Chicago parting ways with him seem slim to none.
Nevertheless, waiting a couple of weeks to know for sure doesn’t hurt anyone. Either one of those guys, in my opinion, would be a better option than Kerr.
Other Knicks fans have a strange obsession with Mark Jackson. Maybe that’s because the Knicks chose Mike D’Antoni over Jackson when Donnie Walsh began his rebuilding process. Though they share a last name, the two Jacksons share very different philosophies on basketball, especially on offense. Throw in this little nugget from the other day:
Mark Jackson has underachieved with a very talented Warriors team, especially offensively, and I don’t believe Golden State will bring him back next season. He’s much more style than substance as a head coach. For the Knicks? I’ll pass, and so will Phil Jackson.
The Zen Master might also want to do his due diligence at the collegiate level. Howard Beck of Bleacher Report wrote about two very interesting names: Fred Hoiberg from Iowa State and UConn’s Kevin Ollie. Jim Cavan mentioned the possibility of Tony Bennett from Virginia. Phil Jackson stated during his introductory press conference that he wanted to run an offensive system, and while the triangle is the obvious possibility — and something he seemed to indicate was a requirement on Wednesday — maybe the Princeton offense would work too.
College coaches often run their systems and fit their new players to their way of doing things rather than the other way around. It seems like it could be a good fit with the way Jackson wants to run the team.
NCAA coaches haven’t transitioned well to the pros but perhaps Jackson could also mold and help someone making the move with his past experiences. It’s something Jackson should at least investigate, even though Hoiberg recently got a big contract extension from Iowa State, and Ollie will likely get paid sooner rather than later by UConn. Perhaps kick the tires on someone like Tom Izzo, who is rumored to want to go to the pros probably isn’t a great fit since he has his own way of doing things, which would be different than Jackson’s.
Jackson also referenced that he might go the unconventional route in selecting a head coach.
“We’re looking for a leader,” he said. “Someone who can bring out the best in players, someone who has the capability of encouraging the staff to meet the needs that players have, that philosophically join in, they buy into what we’re doing. … New York, I think, demands a personality, a person that fans can believe in, a person who has some confidence, has charismatic appeal, and I think has a forward looking idea about the game.”
He would go on to say he wouldn’t necessarily copy the blueprint other teams have used. Jackson’s No. 1 option could be someone no one has even thought of, like Ron Harper, who was offered up by Marc Berman of the New York Post.
In the end the Knicks need to find the best coach possible. That’s all that matters — no matter how long it takes. The only urgency is for Jackson to not have his first choice taken off the market. Otherwise waiting until the middle of May would be just fine.
While Kerr has great NBA experience as a GM and could help Jackson that way, he hasn’t had the success on the bench of even those younger college coaches. Jackson did say, however, that he and Kerr have a philosophical connection.
Whoever Phil Jackson gets, he can’t settle. The one thing we do know is that Jackson won’t be the coach. He has said that enough times in the past two months, and eventually people will start to believe it.
Cost is not an obstacle for the Knicks, and there’s no salary cap for coaches. Jackson can flex owner James Dolan’s financial muscle and buy whoever he wants. The sights need to be set extremely high.
The worst thing he can do is repeat the Woodson hiring process. Kerr might very well end up being the best guy for the job, but let’s wait and make sure that’s the truth.
Follow John on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
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