Adam Zagoria, Team Reporter
If the San Antonio Spurs can finally figure out how to win in Oklahoma City, Derek Fisher’s season could end as soon as Saturday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.
If the Thunder continue to dominate at home, that series would end Monday night with Game 7 in San Antonio — and Fisher could be done for the season, and for his career.
At that point, Phil Jackson would be free to speak with Fisher about the Knicks’ coaching vacancy. But what if Fisher — like Steve Kerr before him — spurns the Knicks in order to stay close to his home on the West Coast?
“He’s got family in L.A,” Jackson told reporters of Fisher on Friday. “He’s got little kids still in L.A. I have no idea if he wants to move his family and come here. Those are things that he would have to express. There are so many unknowns and I’m not talking to him [now]. But he definitely is a person that’s on my list of guys that could be very good candidates for this job.”
Fisher, a five-time NBA champion who played for Jackson with the Lakers, appears to be the Zen Master’s No. 1 choice at this point, but Kerr was Jackson’s No. 1 choice for several weeks and look how that turned out.
Jackson revealed Friday that he and Kerr had an agreement for Kerr to coach the Knicks, but that Kerr opted out after the Golden State Warriors job came open.
“Unfortunately for him, he committed to me the day before the job opened with Golden State,” Jackson said. “So I had to kind of release him to actually go to [the Warriors] job and say, ‘You have to do what’s right for yourself. I understood entirely the process he was going through to have that job open up.”
The Lakers are also reportedly interested in speaking with Fisher about their coaching vacancy, so it’s at least theoretically possible that Fisher, like Kerr, could spurn the Knicks if a West Coast job came calling.
Nuggets coach Brian Shaw appears to be out of the picture, and Jackson took an interesting little dig at Knicks owner James Dolan by saying that he didn’t want to give Denver anything more in exchange for Shaw after all they surrendered in the Anthony deal.
“Denver has everything that we owned for the last few years so there’s nothing else I want to give them,” Jackson cracked.
That would seem to leave Fisher as the top option.
Asked what he likes about Fisher, Jackson said, “Why don’t you read my book. And you’ll see in my book, it’s in there. He was a lead guard and lead guards have a vision a lot of the times.”
Should the Knicks swing and miss on Fisher, Jackson could opt for someone like Bill Cartwright or Tyronn Lue, former players that come from his circle.
While Mark Jackson might be the choice of some Knicks fans, he doesn’t come from Jackson’s inner circle.
“I have a big circle,” Jackson said. “I’d like to have a prior relationship with a coach so that we know that we’ve gone through some kind of issues together. We’ve dealt with some kind of battle situations. We’ve had conflicts, we’ve had disagresements and we know how to work tihngs out. Those, I think, are part and parcel I think to having a relationship with people that can work together that can still disagree and come to terms.”
Still, Jackson also mentioned that he would consider a college coach, leaving open the possibility that he might pursue a John Calipari, a Billy Donovan or a Tom Izzo. Florida’s Donovan, winner of two NCAA titles, recently said he’s intrigued by the possibility of coaching in the NBA.
“There’s some college guys I’m even interested in,” he said. “I shouldn’t even say even, but I’m interested in could come in and do this and have experience. So it’s not limited in that way.”
Of course, if the Knicks strike out on Fisher, the pressure will go even stronger for Jackson himself to coach the team, something he ruled out, but only after a long pause when answering the question.
“I’m going to be interested in coaching,” he said. “It’s whether I can do it or not, and I have to understand my physical capabilities. And at this point, I don’t see how — unless the Lord heals me in the next week or two, I wouldn’t see myself being physically prepared to take on the grind of coaching a basketball team right now.”