By Jason Keidel
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What could the Knicks apologist possibly say about this?
Phil Jackson, the NBA monolith whose hunched, coaching silhouette is just below Jerry West’s dribbling logo, was brought to NYC to bring juice to MSG.
No one could resist his mystical mores. He’s the Zen Master, Chief Triangle, the proud papa of two dynasties and the owner of more rings than fingers. Who could possibly pass up a chance to work with or for the resident, hardwood savant?
Well, his boy just did. No one was deeper in Jackson’s back pocket than Steve Kerr, who was Jackson’s sharpshooter in Chicago, one of the Jordanaires who was the presumed heir to Mike Woodson’s tainted throne on the Knicks’ bench. But just before he put the pen to paper, he stunned his mentor by signing with the Golden State Warriors.
Kerr may be many things, but obtuse isn’t one of them. He clearly did copious research on the Knicks, and perhaps every finding was frightening. Why come to the coaching fishbowl of New York, work for a notoriously meddlesome owner and lead an anemic roster loaded with aging stars who drain your cap way more than the basket? Why do that when you can live and work in California for a better team?
Frank Isola — who is more hardwired into the Knicks than anyone — noted that Kerr often shared the broadcast booth with Marv Albert, who was publicly and putridly dumped by the Knicks, and that Albert probably gave Kerr a haunting scouting report on the rampant dysfunction inside The World’s Most Overrated Arena.
There’s the obvious irony that Jackson lost Kerr partly to his own playbook. Like Jackson, Kerr chose the franchise with the more fertile roster. Though he took the high road publicly, asserting that the geography was more amenable to his family in California, Kerr knows the Golden State job is better in every way. Less stress, more talent and more wins.
Plus, he works indirectly for West, another archenemy of Jackson’s, whom Jackson often tried to humiliate when both were with the Lakers. And while Jackson is renowned for coaching a team, West is infinitely better and more experienced at building one.
Another stroke of irony is Kerr’s new consiglieri and agent, Mike Tannenbaum. Yes, that Mike Tannenbaum — the former GM of the Jets who was also hurled under the bus by a myopic owner, coach and franchise that hasn’t won anything in four decades. Sometimes it takes someone poisoned by the Big Apple to give an earnest and honest scouting report.
This strikes a blow to everyone in the organization, from Jackson to Jim Dolan to Carmelo Anthony, who must be appalled by the notion that the most visible non-player in the NBA can’t even get his own acolyte to coach for him. How does that speak to Jackson’s ability to lure free agents to Broadway?
If you haven’t seen “The Warriors” — the film, that is — then you’re not a New Yorker. The ’70s classic is about a Brooklyn gang trying to find its way back home from the Bronx, hopping on and off graffiti-coated subways and running down the dark streets from enemy gangs trying to kill them.
There’s another former Warrior trying to make his way to home. Mark Jackson, born and raised in Brooklyn, was just fired after a fine job in Golden State. The team’s record improved each of the three years he was at the helm, and made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in two decades. It’s hard to think of a better fit than the former Knick.
But they say Phil and Mark can’t get along, which, it seems, now says more about Phil than Mark. If you can’t get your right-hand man to work for you, it’s hard to have faith in your left.
Or maybe it says all you need to know about the Knicks.
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