Adam Zagoria, Team Reporter
Phil Jackson says his fiancée, Lakers part-owner and president Jeanie Buss, “encouraged” him to coach the Knicks, but that his 68-year-old body won’t let him do it.
Instead, he appears to be targeting Steve Kerr as his No. 1 option going forward.
“Well, Jeanie Buss was here with the Board of Governors last week and stayed through the weekend and tried to encourage me to coach the team,” Jackson, the Knicks President, said Wednesday during his meeting with the media. “If there’s anyone who can encourage me to do anything, it’s Jeanie Buss. But I was able to withstand her arguments the whole time.”
Asked if Buss was serious about the suggestion, Jackson, who won 11 NBA titles as a coach with the Bulls and Lakers, said she was because it was a “lower risk” option for the team given his overwhelming success.
“For me, yeah,” he said. “Do what you know best type of thing.”
Knicks owner James Dolan said during Jackson’s introductory press conference that he first offered Jackson the coaching position while Mike Woodson was still the coach. But despite Buss’s pleas, Jackson won’t do it.
“No, I’ve made up my mind on that,” Jackson said. “Willful in that regard. Right now I know physically what I can do. That’s something I don’t think physically that I can do.”
Instead, Kerr appears to be his top option and Jackson said the two men had a compatible philosophy on basketball.
“Steve and I talked a year ago, more than a year ago,” Jackson said. “Seattle had bought the rights to the Sacramento Kings from the Maloof brothers and the possibility of that team going to Seattle was a real possibility. And I talked about it with him about his interest at that time in coaching. He said at that time he wasn’t ready to coach. We had another conversation at breakfast in January of this year, in which he wanted to talk about styles of coaching, purely basketball, a philosophical discussion. And we meet [in] very similar space about coaching in a lot of ways. I know philosophically we have a strong connection. Whether he’s able to take a job like this, I don’t know. I’ll get in the conversation with him later on this month and talk to him about it, and see where he’s at as far as his desire to coach.”
Kerr, currently working the NBA playoffs for TNT, has said he expects to speak soon with Jackson about the position.
Asked if there were other potential coaching candidates besides Kerr, Jackson said there were but declined to give any names. Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis, Scottie Pippen and Jim Cleamons have also been mentioned.
“We’re looking for a leader,” Jackson 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.”
Jackson also said the new coach in New York “demands a personality” and must have “charismatic appeal.”
As far as a timeframe, Jackson said both that he hopes to have a new coach within the “next month,” but also in time for summer league in July.
“Hiring a coach I don’t think’s important with a timetable,” Jackson said. “We’d really like to have a coach in our summer league camp, or our summer league games out in Las Vegas in July. That is important to us.”
Jackson said the new coach would have “autonomy” to hire his own staff, but that Jackson also had “veto” power on assistants.
“If he proposes someone that I think is not going to be a good staff member, I can veto that,” Jackson said. “Otherwise, his choice and the way he goes about his business. I think he has to have autonomy and he has to have that from his staff and loyalty of course, too.”
Adam Zagoria covers the New York Knicks and Big East hoops for NBA.com and SNY.tv. He also appears as a Big East Basketball Insider on SNY and 1050 ESPN Radio. You can follow him on Twitter and read his blog.