NY Knicks Reportedly Struck out with Steve Kerr by Being Cheapskates

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 17, 2014

USA Today

The New York Knicks gambled $60 million on a first-time executive in Phil Jackson but apparently had problems committing less than half that amount to a first-time coach in Steve Kerr.

Kerr, the only entry on Jackson's Mike Woodson replacement list for months, spurned New York's advances and instead opted for an offer from the Golden State Warriors. Money talks in this business, and the Knicks' cash reportedly wasn't speaking loudly enough.

Marc Berman of the New York Post explains:

The Post has learned Jackson’s initial offer to Kerr was a lowball of three years, $13.2 million. That offer stuck for more than a week before the Warriors got involved Tuesday.

...Had the Knicks originally offered Kerr five years, $22 million — $4.4 million a year — he probably would have closed the deal before Golden State could reenter the fray. Jackson only bumped the offer to four years in response to Golden State’s offer.

A source said Kerr wasn’t moving across the country for less money than the Warriors were offering. The Knicks have insisted Jackson, not owner James Dolan, handled the negotiations.

It seems a bit strange that Jackson would put all his eggs in one basket and then balk at its price. It's not as if the Zen Master masked his desire to land Kerr, and the difference of three guaranteed years versus five feels negligible under a big-picture lens.

Apr 5, 2013; New York, NY, USA;  Phil Jackson in attendance during game between the New York Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden. New York Knicks defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 101-83. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-USA TODAY Sports

By making his interest in the current TNT analyst known, Jackson backed himself into a corner with Kerr as his only escape route. Something feels fishy about him reportedly refusing to buy his way out of that predicament:

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports that's not how these negotiations went down. Apparently, Jackson was not the reason this pursuit suffered a last-minute collapse:

Kerr wanted to stay closer to his San Diego home but was also concerned about working for Garden chairman James Dolan, who undermined the potential hiring by originally offering Kerr a three-year deal. Kerr eventually received a five-year, $25 million deal from Golden State.

Although it had been known for months that Kerr was Jackson's primary target, Knicks ownership did not appear to support the hiring.

If the mighty Knicks losing a coaching candidate to the (historically) lowly Warriors wasn't enough of a gut-punch, hearing that meddlesome owner James Dolan was the reason behind the loss is a crippling body blow.

"In a vacuum, New York deciding not to pay huge money for an unproven coach like Kerr isn't irrational, nor too concerning," CBS Sports' James Herbert wrote. "There's no way to know if he will prove deserving of that sort of long-term deal. If it's a sign that Dolan will not empower Jackson to make the hires he wants to, then it is rather worrying."

Richard Drew/Associated Press

Dolan, remember, said his days of interfering with the franchise were behind him during Jackson's introductory press conference, via Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press:

The basketball world collectively rolled its eyes at that claim, then repeated the action when reports leaked that Dolan had blocked some of Jackson's attempts to remove Knicks staffers, per Isola.

Meddling seems to be in Dolan's blood, although this sign of financial restraint is new. These are the Knicks, after all, the same team responsible for contract albatrosses like giving Eddy Curry $60 million, Allan Houston's $100 million deal and the $30 million investment made in part-time player Jerome James.

The New York penny-pinchers just doesn't have the right ring to it. The tainted-by-Dolan's-touch Knicks, unfortunately, does.