Let us take a look inside the dojo of serenity that is Phil Jackson‘s mind. It has been more than a month since Mike Woodson and the rest of the New York Knicks coaching staff was relieved of their duties. And the Knicks are still looking for their next coach.
They certainly came close. Most Knicks fans were preparing for the start of the Steve Kerr era, but in a surprise move, he agreed to a deal with the Golden State Warriors. Usually with the Knicks’ reactionary management style and the media circus that surrounds them, you would expect another coach to be announced faster than you can say Metta World Peace. But other than a few whispers, no true candidates have emerged.
Naturally, the Zen Master isn’t panicking. Instead of laboring through phone calls and setting up meetings, Jackson has been overseeing key playoff games for the Knicks’ co-tenants, the New York Rangers. He was on hand Sunday night for their overtime victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Normally, the leisurely pace with which Jackson has decided to conduct his coaching search would be a refreshing change of pace for the Knicks. In this one instance, however, urgency should take precedent. The longer Jackson holds out on finding a new coach, the less likely he is to retain his most valuable asset: Carmelo Anthony.
In only five weeks the NBA will begin free agency. And Anthony is one of the most coveted players available. Even in the extremely unlikely event that the entire Big Three of the Miami Heat opt out, Melo will still be a top target. With the opportunity to start playing for coaches like Rick Carlisle or Tom Thibodeau on the horizon, the big fat question mark representing the Knicks head coach isn’t very enticing.
Sure, New York can offer Anthony more money and an extra year on his contract, but that’s about all they have. The Knicks have two oft-injured contract carcasses clogging up their cap space, and they sport one of the worst backcourts in the league. Raymond Felton has probably eaten through a full rack of ribs in the time you’ve been reading this. The only cards the Knicks have is that extra money and potential hometown loyalty. Sound familiar?
For now, Knicks fans shouldn’t be too worried and assume that Jackson has a plan. Maybe he’s waiting for someone like Derek Fisher, who commands respect and would be a terrific protege, but won’t be available until the Oklahoma City Thunder end their season. Maybe he’s “struggling” to find a valid candidate in a long con to instill himself as the head coach. Maybe he’s planning on letting Anthony walk and being really bad next year, resulting in a high lottery pick and a boatload of cap space in 2015.
But if Jackson wants to keep his best player, he would be wise to make his decision on a new head coach as soon as possible. Considering the team’s previous aversions to draft picks, it’s not like he has anything else to do.