Steve Kerr has decided he’d rather dip his toes in the coaching waters in Northern California than in New York City. Better wine, I guess. For the Knicks, being left at the altar is nothing new. The thing that stings the most about this latest act of flat-leaving is that hiring a coach was Phil Jackson’s first move as Knicks President. He seemingly identified a top candidate, one of his guys, and whiffed.
In actuality, we don’t know if the Knicks actually lost out on anything, because Steve Kerr has never coached an NBA game. The case for Steve Kerr coaching the Knicks was all based on ideas; he’s smart, he’s close with Jackson, he knows the system Jackson wants to run, etc. But nobody has any idea how effective Steve Kerr will actually be as a head coach.
Head coaches with no prior job experience have become a bit of thing in the NBA; the Nets’ hiring of Jason Kidd, the Warriors’ hiring of Mark Jackson (apparently they have a thing for broadcasters?) a few years ago, and there’s a chance now the Knicks will be another to choose a guy who hasn’t even been an assistant before. And if the Knicks do hire someone who has never coached before (a name like Derek Fisher has popped up), the same unknown will apply. Herb Williams has 17 more NBA coaching wins than Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher combined.
While we don’t know if Kerr will ever be a good coach, we thought we knew that things were supposed to be different under Jackson (as far as it’s possible to “know” something that was “supposed” to be). Jackson will make his moves. He’ll hire a coach and he’ll make his personnel decisions — the future of Carmelo Anthony the most high-profile of all — and how he makes those moves may prove that things are indeed changing for the better. Right now though, it feels like all the same as it was before Jackson came on board.
You’ve already heard whispers that Kerr decided on Golden State because it presented a less-pressurized situation. What that means, to many, is that he didn’t want to deal with James Dolan. As long as things do not go the Knicks’ way, there will forever be the specter of Dolan hanging over everything. Even as Phil Jackson begins to pull the strings, his shadow ever lurks.
And that’s why Knicks fans who are upset today are upset. It’s not because a guy who has never coached before decided to coach somewhere else (if there’s a person who guarantees you that Kerr is going to be a great coach, tell them they’re full of it because nobody on earth…not Joe Lacob nor Phil Jackson, not even Kerr himself knows for sure). It’s because of why, apparently, he chose to coach somewhere else.
It will be interesting to see where Jackson goes from here. People will bring up Mark Jackson, but that seems like very square pegs and very round holes. Chances are it will be one of Phil’s guys, with or without prior coaching experience. None of these possibilities — Kurt Rambis, Bill Cartwright, Jim Cleamons, Tyronn Lue, Fisher — are going to excite the fanbase. Perhaps it will be someone off the radar (Kevin Ollie, Patrick Ewing, etc.) or a current coach that becomes available (Tom Thibodeau?).
But until the Knicks get someone in tow, and until they start winning games and proving that the culture has indeed changed, it feels all too familiar.
Who do you want the Knicks to go after next? Let us know in the comments section below!
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