There is an unemployed coach out there with 11 championship rings who has a soft spot in his heart for the New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden.
And at the very least, the Knicks and their owner, Jim Dolan, owe it to their fans to pick up the phone and make an exploratory call to Phil Jackson’s representatives to ask if he’d be interested in taking the job.
SheridanHoops.com columnist Mark Heisler sat down for lunch with Jackson a couple months ago and filed this column describing Jackson as content in his current circumstances, but perhaps not feeling entirely fulfilled. Jackson has said recently he is focused on getting his surgically repaired knee in shape to withstand a bicycle tour of Europe he has planned for this summer.
The Knicks already have his phone number. Back in 1999 when they were making their improbable run from the eighth seed to the NBA Finals, Knicks executives engaged in high-level discussions with Jackson and his representatives even as the playoffs were ongoing, the plan being to remove the interim title and the coaching title from Jeff Van Gundy once the Knicks were eliminated. Van Gundy’s sucess with that team ensured that the only title he lost was “interim.”
The Knicks have reportedly already begun contract extension discussions with representatives for coach Mike Woodson, who took over in midseason and led the team to 12 wins in their final 18 games before they lost 4-1 to the Miami Heat in the playoffs.
Woodson still carries that interim tag today, a day after New York was sent packing for the summer.
Frank Isola of the Daily News has reported that although Jackson is the most attractive free agent coach on the market, the Knicks are reluctant to make a run at Red Holzman’s protégé because of Jackson’s age and health concerns. Coach John Calipari, because of his association with the Creative Arts Agency, which represents Anthony and J.R. Smith, among others, has been mentioned as a candidate for over a year but Calipari has said on numerous occasions that he wants to return to Kentucky, where he won his first national title in April.