In recent years, the New York Knicks have made a habit out of stretching the truth, feigning turnarounds and selling starry-eyed futures borne from a complete disregard for reality.
LeBron James was coming in 2010.
Mortgaging the farm for Carmelo Anthony in 2011 was a good idea, and not at all impulsive and desperate and James Dolan-y.
J.R. Smith's family barbecues weren't funded by the Knicks, catered by Dolan and inevitable precursors to anyone and everyone in his bloodline receiving a contract.
Andrea Bargnani was worth a first-round draft pick.
Mike Woodson's press conferences—prior to him realizing he was doomed—weren't repetitive, unsubstantial monologues replete with references to curbs, patience, injuries and the (diminutive) Eastern Conference being abnormally huge.
The 2013-14 Knicks were championship contenders.
Understandably, anything the Knicks do now is met with illimitable skepticism, even the arrival of team president Phil Jackson. Their coaching search, which has led them to TNT analyst and Jackson disciple Steve Kerr, won't be any different.
Will he be the latest faux savior for a team in need of reprieve from temporary solutions?
A Done Deal?
Less than two weeks after firing Woodson, the Zen Master already appears to have his guy. Truth be told, he seemed to have this same guy long before Woody's bags were packed.
According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the Knicks have attempted to expedite Kerr's hiring process in hopes of ironing out a deal soon:
Marc Berman of the New York Post confirmed the report, writing that the Knicks' head coaching position is "Kerr’s job if he wants it."
Why the rush?
It's a new day in New York. Jackson isn't one to twiddle his thumbs, color his hair, prepare speeches or watch Air Bargs highlights set to Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" on a loop. The Zen Master has things to do, a regime to change, a franchise to save.
He has a superstar to woo:
Oh, and Kerr is a wanted man as well, per Stein:
There has been considerable speculation since the playoffs began that the delay also stems from Kerr waiting to see what other jobs might open depending on playoff results.
NBA coaching sources have maintained for weeks that the Golden State Warriors have strong interest in Kerr should they elect to part ways with Mark Jackson after a 51-win season, given Kerr's strong relationships with Warriors owner Joe Lacob, son Kirk Lacob (who works in Golden State's front office) and Warriors president Rick Welts, with whom Kerr worked closely in Phoenix.
Make no mistake, the Knicks are sure they want Kerr. They wouldn't be trying to sidestep potential job openings out West if they weren't. Or speaking with Bill Cartwright, who was an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns while Kerr was the general manager, according to ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley.
They wouldn't be trying to speed things up if they weren't legitimately after him.
Kerr is their guy.
Who Is Kerr to the Knicks?
Is Kerr actually the Knicks' guy—the one to lead them away from this complicated, disaster-ridden era?
That's a tough question standing by itself.
Kerr is a first-time coach, being thrown into one of the NBA's biggest, most unforgiving markets. Moreover, he would be entering New York during fragile times.
The Knicks aren't looking to rebuild in the conventional sense. Even if Anthony leaves in free agency, plans don't change. Excluding an improbable blockbuster trade that lands them future assets and draft picks, they'll try to remain relevant, retooling and restructuring through free agency in 2015 and beyond.
Joining a big-market team that is prepared to lose—like Brad Stevens did with the Boston Celtics—would be an easier process. But Kerr would come to New York facing immediate expectations that become more demanding if Anthony returns.
Relying on him, then, to be the guy that turns the Knicks around with a roster similar to what they had last season is a risky gambit. Expecting him to be a driving force behind Anthony's return and future superstar arrivals is equally unsafe and reminiscent of what the Knicks have always done: Insist that one solution acts as an all-curing remedy.
That's all assuming this is who the Knicks are looking for Kerr to be.
Which they aren't.
When Jackson explained to reporters what he was looking for in a head coach, he didn't sound like someone in search of a savior, per Begley:
New York, I think, demands a personality, a person that fans can believe in, a person who has charismatic appeal and has a forward-looking idea about the game," Jackson said last week. We are caught in sports -- in all sports actually, not just basketball -- [by] a lot of copycat things. What happens to people who win or how winning basketball is played, we try to replicate or duplicate it.
And a lot of teams in our league are so bent on defense or a limited amount of time to teach skills that we get caught up in replicating what other people do because that’s the common denominator. I'm not looking for a coach who wants…to do that.
In other words, Jackson wants an extension of himself without actually having to coach—which fiancee Jeanie Buss reportedly tried to get him to do, according to The Knicks Blog's Adam Zagoria.
Kerr, in a way, is that extension—a unique, forward-thinking individual who hasn't been conditioned to "win" using traditional, modern-day-accepted methods.
Unlike so many others in the league, Kerr is well versed in the triangle offense and system basketball in general. He won three championships under Jackson while with the Chicago Bulls, and another two with the heavily system-based, Gregg Popovich-coached San Antonio Spurs.
More than that, he's already been drastically influenced by the Zen Master.
Said Kerr, via Berman:
I know Phil last week said we shared the same space, which is well-said. We share the same philosophies. I learned a lot of my basketball from [Phil] and Tex Winter [one of the triangle offense’s inventors], so I think it’s safe to say we have a lot of the same ideas. As far as getting into the details of the triangle, I’m not going to expand on it. But obviously there’s a strong connection between us and our beliefs.
Notice the one common denominator here?
He is the one championing this coaching search. He is the one placing stock in the value of a rookie head coach and lauded disciple.
Jackson is the one looking for a familiar face and blank slate, someone whom he can mold and shape into the system-implementing figure he desires.
No Faux Saviors Here
This is a first.
Enjoy it, New York.
Roll around in it.
Bathe in it.
For the first time in a long time, the Knicks' intentions are pure. Jackson isn't lusting after a big-name candidate just to pacify Knicks fans and an owner attracted to fancy monikers and high price tags.
Finding a coach is about finding a coach. Hiring Kerr is about hiring Kerr, not a band-aid masquerading as a panacea. That kind of thinking ended when Jackson arrived.
Oddly enough, though, it's because of that thinking he is in New York.
The Knicks had an ulterior motive when they hired Jackson; that much was clear.
In addition to nabbing a lionized basketball mind with the coaching credentials that warranted a shot at managing from afar, the Knicks won the press conference. They changed their plan without really changing their plan by putting a frosty-haired bow on it.
These Knicks will still chase free agents, they will still look to avoid lasting rebuilds that require patience and draft picks they don't have. It's up to Jackson to work these miracles in his own, un-Knicks way.
And that's exactly what he's doing right now.
Never one for creating illusions, Jackson has been true to his initial pledge, approaching this coaching search with a level of transparency the Knicks haven't espoused since the days of yore. He's been up front about what he's looking for and who he wants. There is no ulterior motive, no attempt to portray this coaching expedition as something it's not.
Kerr is Kerr—a valued basketball figure, promising coaching prospect and favorite of these Knicks.
No one more, no one fake.
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