After missing out on Steve Kerr, the Knicks have refocused their coaching search on Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Derek Fisher, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne. Fisher's Thunder are still in the playoffs, but Jackson is prepared to wait their postseason run out and see if he's interested.
Right now, Stein and Shelburne say it's unclear if he would accept the job:
Fisher's interest in coaching remains a matter of debate, with Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks telling the New York Daily News over the weekend that it wouldn't surprise him if the 18-year-veteran decided to play on for one more season. Either way, Fisher is trying to deflect all questions about his future -- as a coach or front-office executive -- until after the playoffs, hoping to limit distractions as the Thunder prepare to face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals starting Monday night.
Fisher has never coached before, but he won five NBA championships under Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers. Experience is no longer requisite for high-profile coaching positions, so the Knicks' interest appears legitimate.
Sources told ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley that Jackson is "looking for a young coach who he can mold and has a strong knowledge of the triangle offense."
As a blank coaching slate, Fisher fits the bill. He's bears the closest resemblance to Kerr of anyone available.
"There would be an equal risk with Derek Fisher, who's still keeping his 18-year playing career alive for now," Bleacher Report's Zach Buckley wrote. "The risk wouldn't necessarily be any greater with Fisher, though, and it could be mitigated by Jackson's presence—a safeguard Kerr will not have in Oakland.
Getting Fisher to accept the job might not be so easy. Fisher, 39, has said that he plans on taking at least one year off upon retiring, according to the New York Post's Marc Berman. He has also made it a point not to discuss New York's interest while his Thunder continue their quest for an NBA title.
From Stein and Shelburne:
I would tell people to allow me to finish my career as a player before they give me another job after that. It's humbling, just to think about people thinking of me in that manner, especially while I'm still playing. [But] I promise you this is the last thing on my mind at this point. I really haven't thought about it that much. Hopefully there's a lot of basketball left to be played this season for sure. Once that's done we'll go from there.
If whiffing on Kerr has taught the Zen Master anything, it's that he needs a backup plan. And he has one. Many of them, in fact.
In addition to Fisher, the Knicks remain high on Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw, per Stein and Shelburne. Mike Dunleavy, Kurt Rambis, Bill Cartwright and Tyronn Lue have been mentioned as well. Though Jackson hasn't shown an inclination to hire any big names, he apparently hasn't ruled out interviewing former Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson either.
Former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy has indirectly thrown himself into the candidate pool, too. While on ESPN Radio’s The Ian O’Connor Show Sunday (via Begley), he admitted that he would love the opportunity to speak with Jackson.
“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," he said.
There's almost no predicting where the Knicks' coaching expedition will take them next. Waiting for Fisher won't stop the rumors from swirling or vanquish the exceedingly prevalent pressure. It forces Jackson to keep his options open, to remain both patient and flexible so that he ensures New York's prospective coaching well never dries up.
Resting all your hopes on one candidate is a dangerous game, after all—one he and the Knicks already lost the first time around.