New York Knicks

Jeff Van Gundy Thinks Phil Jackson Might Hire Coach Without Triangle Experience

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18:  James Dolan, L, Executive Chairman of Madison Square Garden, stands with Phil Jackson during the press conference to announce Jackson as President of the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on March 18, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images
Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistMay 19, 2014

Conventional wisdom suggests that New York Knicks president Phil Jackson will pursue a coach willing and able to implement his famed Triangle offense. 

But former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy doesn't believe that's necessarily the case. He spoke to the subject Sunday on ESPN Radio’s The Ian O’Connor Show (via ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley), saying:

I think it makes sense for him to talk to people that he philosophically shares a great deal of agreement on. But even if you haven't coached, certainly, in a triangle system, I don't think that will preclude him from looking at people, because while you may not have had expertise, or experience coaching in the triangle, most coaches believe in unselfishness, floor balance, and defensive rebounding.

In other words, though coaches may not be well-versed in the Triangle itself, many are accustomed to the philosophical principles that underlie it.

The comments came on the heels of Van Gundy admitting, "If Phil Jackson ever wanted to talk basketball with me, which, listen, who knows if that's true, but if he ever did, of course I would take the time, because I'm sure I could benefit from the conversation."

Van Gundy has shied away from saying too much about his potential role in the Knicks' (or any other) coaching search. 

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 12: ESPN Announcers Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen does pre-game during Game One of the 2012 NBA Finals at Chesapeake Energy Arena on June 12, 2012 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees th
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ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne previously reported that, "Sources close to the process told ESPN.com that the most likely scenario, even after Jackson was snubbed by the only candidate he has considered for the position since taking the Knicks' job in March, remains hiring a younger coach Jackson has worked with previously and can mentor."

One of the implications of Jackson wanting to groom someone in his image is the Triangle. The arrangement was employed with both the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers during Jackson's tenures. It's premised on a particular style of ball and player movement, often revolving around a post player serving as a pivot point and making plays. 

We now know Steve Kerr won't be taking the reins for Jackson (after accepting a long-term deal with the Golden State Warriors), so that's led to plenty of speculation about who might. Stein and Shelburne offer some additional names to consider, including some options to become assistants:

Sources say that Jackson likewise has interest in a number of veteran coaches he has worked with previously, including Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright and Frank Hamblen. Cartwright, in fact, has already interviewed with Jackson since he joined the Knicks, but it's believed only Rambis from that group would be considered for the top spot on the staff.

So Van Gundy's assertion that Jackson might entertain someone from outside the family is slightly inconsistent with the prior consensus. Jackson could elect to find a more established coach (like Van Gundy) if he's unconvinced his closer ties are ready to handle the gig.

Whoever inherits the job will be dealing with a roster in transition. The most important prerequisite for coaching the Knicks may have less to do with game plans and more to do with patience. As good as Jackson's project may one day turn out, the turnaround in New York won't be immediate.

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