By John Schmeelk
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As the Steve Kerr negotiations dragged on longer and longer, it became more and more clear that something wasn’t right.
It was truly an “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” situation.
As it turned out, there was something wrong. Kerr always preferred the Golden State Warriors to the Knicks. The stalled talks had to be nothing more than Kerr biding time for the Warriors to come back to him with a reason to spurn MSG. Once Stan Van Gundy decided to go to the Pistons, the die was cast.
Kerr’s plan had worked perfectly.
He not only got to coach the team he wanted, but he also got the same amount of money he wanted from the Knicks. The five-year, $25 million contract is something he probably wouldn’t have gotten from Golden State if the Knicks had not been involved. In an interview, Kerr said he had Jackson’s blessing to investigate and take the Warriors job. But it must be painful for the Knicks’ grand poobah to see one of his own proteges to take a job elsewhere instead of a premier job with him.
Jackson was rejected — and more or less used — by one of his own guys. Anyone in Jackson’s shoes would have a right to be furious. Perhaps Kerr had been honest with Jackson privately from the start, which would make it slightly less biting.
Kerr’s decision was really an easy one — and understandable, too. The Warriors are close to his home and family. They also have a far better roster than the Knicks. Stephen Curry is one of the best guards in the league. Klay Thompson is on the verge of being a perennial All-Star. Andre Iguodala is one of the best wing defenders in basketball. David Lee and Andrew Bogut are a good combination of offense and defense inside. They are a 50-win team that can challenge to go deep in the playoffs right away.
The Knicks, on the other hand, have a mess of a roster. They have a superstar that might not be back next year and a lineup that will look completely different in two years. Kerr made the right decision, even though it leaves New York in the lurch.
This is also the first official failure of Jackson as Knicks president. He was brought in by owner James Dolan to be a recruiter and bring in the best talent to return the Knicks to prominence. Even though Kerr doesn’t have experience and is being overpaid at $5 million per year, he was Jackson’s preferred option. Jackson failed to get him. His biggest job is to hire a coach to lead his team. To fail at your first big assignment at a new job is not easy, and there’s little doubt Dolan is wondering how well-spent that $50-million contract is.
There are some people out there who will throw this at the feet of Dolan and blame his past incompetence for scaring away Kerr. While that was no doubt part of the thought process, in the end Kerr wanted the better roster. He wanted to be closer to home. It’s safe to wager that Kerr would have chosen Golden State no matter who owned the Knicks. It was the better job, and once the Warriors showed they were willing to match or surpass the Knicks’ financial commitment, it was a no-brainer. It also appears that the Knicks were going to be Kerr’s choice if the Warriors hired Stan Van Gundy. That makes Dolan’s presence a factor, but not a deciding one. The quality of the Knicks’ contract offer would also be in that category.
Now the Knicks need to go to Plan B, whatever it is. It’s Jackson’s job to have one, and its name better not be Bill Cartwright, Kurt Rambis or Jim Clemons. Jackson is not making $12 million to settle for a retread, s0meone who has already had a chance to coach in the league and failed.
The Knicks’ future rests on his shoulders — and he better have someone in mind.
Follow John on Twitter @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants, Yankees and the world of sports.
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