Here’s something to keep in mind if you’re keeping an eye on the Knicks’ coaching search: Jeff Van Gundy said on Thursday that he’s never ruled out the possibility of taking the job.
In other words, if Phil Jackson calls, it sounds like Van Gundy will listen.
“I never said I wouldn’t consider [the Knicks],” Van Gundy, an ESPN NBA analyst, said Thursday morning on ESPN Radio’s “The Herd with Colin Cowherd.”
“One thing I try to stay away from, Colin, is talking about things in public. Interest in jobs or other jobs, I don’t think it does the teams any good. I don’t think it does, frankly, coaches any good. I’m very content in whatever I do to sort of stay in the background. The Knicks, no matter who they hire, will always have a special place in my heart. They gave me the opportunity to come into pro basketball as an assistant. I stayed there 13 years. I love the New York Knicks, always will, regardless of who coaches.”
Van Gundy coached the Knicks from 1995-96 to 2001-02 and had the third-most wins in franchise history before walking away from the job in December 2001. In a radio interview last June, Van Gundy expressed regret over leaving the Knicks in the manner that he did.
On Thursday, Van Gundy praised the organization for its hire of Phil Jackson.
“I think the Phil Jackson hire was a great hire. ... It’s just one of those unique places that once you work there for as long as I did and you live there, you can’t help but root for them to be super successful,” Van Gundy said.
Jackson was hired as president in March but struck out on his first head-coaching target, Steve Kerr. That has led to speculation that Jackson could look outside of his “inner circle” for the Knicks’ next head coach. Hence, Van Gundy.
But sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne that Jackson is not worried about selling New Yorkers on his eventual hire and that there have been no indications that Jackson will hire an established coach.
For the time being, that would eliminate Mark Jackson's name from the list of potential coaches. Van Gundy, Jackson's former broadcasting partner, praised Jackson for his success in Golden State. The Warriors fired Jackson last week for reported clashes with management.
"What he did there was he took a team that wasn’t very good and made it very good in a powerful Western Conference and he took a team historically, who was very poor defensively, and made them elite," Van Gundy said. "And then he took a team in the playoffs this year that was very hurt and got them to overperform in the playoffs, losing a tough seventh game to what I consider the best team in the NBA right now in the Clippers. I just think we should be careful in negative labels over what he accomplished."
Van Gundy also discussed the possibility of Phil Jackson taking over as coach.
"Certainly, I think when you’re the president of the organization, you have to evaluate and do what you think is best for the organization as long as it falls within the parameters of what he is comfortable with," Van Gundy said. "I would suspect that Phil Jackson the president would think very highly of Phil Jackson the coach and all that he’s accomplished and think that this could be a really workable situation. Most definitely. I'm sure it’s run across his mind. Whether he feels up for that challenge or not, or wants to do it, or wants to stay in the background, I couldn’t speak to."
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