New York Knicks

Steve Kerr Coaching New York Knicks Makes Too Much Sense Not to Happen

ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 24:  Coach Steve Kerr of Team Shaq responds to reporters during a press conference prior to the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge as part of 2012 All-Star Weekend at the Amway Center on February 24, 2012 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2012 NBAE (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 22, 2014

The writing on the wall has shifted over to the NBA's official transaction log: Mike Woodson has been relieved of his coaching duties by the New York Knicks and new team president Phil Jackson.

The league's worst-kept secret is finally part of the public record. The Knicks' official Twitter account shared the news that Woodson and his coaching staff were given their walking papers Monday:

The news carried as much shock value in the basketball world as Stephen Curry converting a triple. Woodson wasn't one of Jackson's guys, and nothing—not an eight-game winning streak in the month of March or a 5-2 record in April—could change that fact.

Jackson, a first-time executive facing $60 million expectations, needs one of his own. Few, if any, fit that description better than current TNT broadcasterand former Jackson pupilSteve Kerr.

Kerr is well-versed in the Zen Master's philosophies. More than the famed triangle offense that propelled both to the championship podium, Kerr has also reaped the rewards of Jackson's team-building exercises. If players need more convincing than Jackson's jewelry chest can provide, Kerr has one of his own to bring to the table.

There's a method to this madness and tangible proof of its existence.

Jackson, a coaching guru in every aspect of the title, has never held this position before. The challenges he'll encounter in the Big Apple (cash-strapped financial books, draft debts to pay off, Carmelo Anthony's uncertain future and the scrutinous watch of team owner James Dolan) are perhaps unlike any facing his executive peers.

There isn't a more important link in building a franchise than that connecting a president with his coach. With a long road to relevance facing the Knicks, that bond becomes even more critical.

Jackson's circle of trust is no bigger than Jack Byrnes'. His coaching tree is more like a branch, with a few withered leaves (Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright, Frank Hamblen) and one yet to sprout (Brian Shaw).

Kerr isn't yet a part of that tree, but he does have experience in the executive suite. He spent three seasons as general manager of the Phoenix Suns (2007-10), a stretch culminated by the team's run to the 2010 Western Conference Finals.

It's getting harder to buy into the theory that experience is a necessary resume piece for NBA head coaches. Jason Kidd, Mark Jackson and Doc Rivers have all found their way without first paying their dues in the college or assistant ranks.

Besides, Kerr's on-the-job training might actually be an advantage with this veteran-laden roster.

"No coaching experience? No problem," Bleacher Report's Jim Cavan wrote. "Assuming the Knicks hold fast to their current core of Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire—whom Kerr knows well from his time in Phoenix—and Tyson Chandler, having a skipper willing to take a laissez-faire approach could be the way to go."

PHOENIX - OCTOBER 7: Amare Stoudemire #1 and Steve Kerr President of Basketball Operations and General Manager of the Phoenix Suns talk during NBA TV's Real Training Camp visit to the Phoenix Suns on October 7, 2008, at U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix, Ari
Barry Gossage/Getty Images

Kerr has yet to discuss the position with his former coach and longtime friend, but he said he feels that time could be coming soon, via ESPN's J.A. Adande:

He's also hidden his desire to coach about as well as New York masked Woodson's fate, per ESPN New York's Ian Begley:

If Kerr is waiting for the right opportunity to knock, he might want to seize what's in front of him before it pulls his door of its hinges.

It's hard to think of many jobs more enjoyable than getting paid to analyze NBA games, but this might be one of the exceptions.

The Knicks aren't going to pinch pennies to bring him on board if Jackson tabs him as the right man for the position. If the team's astronomical payroll didn't make that clear enough, then the Zen Master's $12 million salary hammered that point home.

Certainly, it takes more than money to make a dream job. Cash, however, isn't New York's only trump card.

"As for the circumstances, executing Jackson's vision on the bench -- just as he did on the floor as a player for three of Jackson's championship teams in Chicago -- would seem to be pretty ideal," CBS Sports' Ken Berger noted.

Not to mention, the roster—assuming Anthony re-signs—has far more talent than the team's 37-45 record would indicate. If Anthony returns, the Knicks will have seven players from last season's 54-win team.

Mar 8, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and power forward Amar'e Stoudemire (1) celebrate in the first quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Now, is this the perfect coaching job? Of course not, it's the Knicks. Perfection might often be the expectation, but rarely is it the reality.

The stain of Dolan's fingerprints have reportedly already caught Kerr's eyes. "What concerns Kerr, according to a source, is whether he can be successful at Madison Square Garden, a place that has destroyed careers and ruined reputations under Garden chairman James Dolan," Frank Isola of the New York Daily News wrote.

But for now, at least, it sounds like Dolan is ready to embrace the shadows he should have been living in long ago, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press:

Working under a legend like Jackson has some inherent drawbacks of its own.

"New York is famous for chants, and you know you'll hear 'We want Phil' in the Garden after they lose four in a row," a league official told ESPN New York's Ian O'Connor. "If the head coach is Steve Kerr or someone else, he'll have to be strong and understand that something like that is going to happen."

This wouldn't be the first time Kerr has worked under pressure, of course. He made a career out of taking and making big-time shots.

Besides, Jackson can do a lot to deflect that heat. Kerr would be his guy, not the guy a franchise chose over him (see: D'Antoni, Mike). By publicly supporting Kerr—or even just formally closing his coaching door—Jackson could quiet those chants to a whisper.

Now, the Knicks aren't the only egg in Kerr's basket. He's "eyeing several potential openings around the league," sources told Bleacher Report's Howard Beck, and "would prefer to stay on (or near) the West Coast."

That sounds well and good, but where will he find this West Coast gig?

There are some parallels between the current states of the Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers, but one spot has Jackson, and the other does not. The Utah Jazz are moving on from Tyrone Corbin, the team's official Twitter account reported, but they're worlds away from contention.

Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts is working on the final year of his deal, but his team just piled up 54 wins in the regular season. The Golden State Warriors might be growing tired of Mark Jackson, but he's now guided the franchise to back-to-back playoff berths for the first time in two decades.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 21: Mark Jackson of the Golden State Warriors answers questions from the media after his team's loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals at Staples Center on April 21, 2014 in Los Angeles
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Maybe these are serious hangups for Kerr, or perhaps they're just conveniently placed roadblocks.

"If I had to guess, the Knicks and Kerr are just trying to create the illusion of uncertainty," NBC Sports' Dan Feldman wrote. "One, it gives the appearance the Knicks are being thorough in their search. Two, it protects Kerr from criticism for being hastily hired or getting the job due to his relationship with Jackson."

Jackson won't find a more desirable name in his inner circle than Kerr, and the latter won't find a better boss than the former.

These aren't smoke screens, there's a fire burning in the Big Apple. As predictable as Woodson's dismissal was, expect more of the same when it comes to this coaching search.

 

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