The coaching search is on in New York, and the best possible candidate has already been eliminated.
Phil Jackson won’t be hiring himself to coach the Knicks.
Two days after firing Mike Woodson, Jackson reiterated Wednesday that he won’t be returning to the bench, despite the fact that even fiancee Jeanie Buss told him he should.
But Jackson, who retired from coaching in 2011 after winning an NBA-record 11 titles, said his body isn’t up to doing the job.
"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. And if there’s anyone that can encourage me to do anything, it’s Jeanie Buss. But I was able to withstand her arguments the whole time," Jackson said at the Knicks’ training center.
So the new team president said he’s looking for a leader with the personality and charisma to succeed in New York. He hopes to talk with Steve Kerr, the TNT analyst frequently mentioned as the leading candidate, sometime within the next month.
"New York, I think, demands a personality, a person that the fans can believe in, a person that has some confidence, has the charismatic appeal, and I think has a forward-looking idea about the game," Jackson said.
He believes Kerr, who played for him in Chicago and served as general manager of the Phoenix Suns, could be that person. He discussed Kerr’s potential interest in coaching last year when a group was trying to buy the Sacramento Kings and move them to Seattle. Jackson was prepared to run their basketball operations if that happened.
He and Kerr spoke again earlier this year about basketball, so Jackson is comfortable they share the same view of how the game should be played.
"I know philosophically we have a strong connection. Whether he’s able to take a job like this, I don’t know," Jackson said. "I will get in a conversation with him later on this month and talk to him about and see where he’s at as far as his desire to coach."
Jackson said he didn’t have a timetable beyond wanting a coach in place before the July summer league. He has other candidates in mind, but said: "You don’t want to know their names. I don’t want you to have their names."
Jackson’s will always come up because of his coaching legacy. Madison Square Garden Chairman James Dolan first talked to Jackson around the holidays about coaching the team, but Jackson declined before they began discussing a management position.
Jackson said Buss, whose family owns the Lakers, encouraged him to reconsider because it was "low risk" for him and a "do-what-you-know-best type of thing."
But he said he’s already made up his mind.
"Right now I know physically what I can do," Jackson said. "That’s something that I don’t think physically I can do."
Jackson hopes Carmelo Anthony won’t change his mind, either.
Anthony plans to become a free agent this summer and has said he would take less than a maximum salary if it helped build a winning team. Jackson, noting that Tim Duncan and the Miami Heat’s Big Three had sacrificed salary in the past, said he would talk to Anthony about the benefits of doing the same.
"That’s the beginning of team play," Jackson said.
"It’s really hard to just have one or two top stars, max players, and put together a team with enough talent. You’ve got to have people making sacrifices financially, so we hope that Carmelo is true to his word, and we understand what it’s going to take and we’ll present that to him at that time."
The Knicks would have to pay Anthony more than $120 million over five years if he insisted on a max contract.
Anthony was one of the only bright spots on a 37-45 team that missed the playoffs. The Knicks would like to keep him.
"I’m all about moving forward. Just deal with what is and move forward," Jackson said. "If it’s in the cards, man, are we fortunate. If it’s not in the cards, man, are we fortunate. We’re going forward anyway."