Steve Kerr reached out to ex-Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy for advice while he was sorting out his coaching options.
So what did Van Gundy tell Kerr about New York?
“I didn't see that there were any negatives for Steve coaching in New York. I think they would've had a chance to improve. I think he and Phil [Jackson] would've had a united front, and I think the buffer of Phil would've made his relationships with the front office outstanding,” Van Gundy said Sunday on ESPN Radio’s “The Ian O’Connor Show.”
Kerr was Jackson’s first and only coaching candidate. He spurned the Knicks and took a job with the Golden State Warriors earlier this week.
Golden State offered Kerr a five-year, $25 million deal and an opportunity to work closer to his San Diego-based family. The Knicks offered him a four-year, $20 million deal including incentives, a league source told Ian O’Connor.
But money wasn’t the only factor at play in Kerr’s decision. Coaching in Golden State allows Kerr to be closer to his family.
The presence of Knicks owner James Dolan also may have played a role in Kerr choosing the Warriors over the Knicks.
Marv Albert told ESPN New York during Kerr’s courtship that he felt it was important for Dolan to leave Kerr and Jackson “alone.”
Albert later told the New York Daily News that he advised Kerr, his ex-TNT broadcast partner, that things “never end well” for Garden employees. He cited the difficulties of working for Dolan, who has a history of meddling in basketball decisions.
Van Gundy did not relay the same concerns to Kerr.
The ESPN NBA analyst said he didn’t have an issue with Dolan while he coached the Knicks (1995-2001).
“You hear all these criticisms about Jim Dolan, and frankly, it may be a new time at the Garden now where I coached in a different time there. But I had what I think Steve was going to have, in that everybody who coaches needs a guy in between them and ownership to be a buffer. I had that in Dave Checketts, and Dave took my venting and frustrations and took their venting and frustrations and only shared with each other what was important to try to win,” Van Gundy said. “And I think Steve would've had the same exact thing with Phil Jackson, and I think that's a necessary thing."
Van Gundy also said that dealing with the New York media isn’t as difficult as some assume. He relayed this to Kerr.
“Whenever anybody from outside of New York thinks about a New York coaching job, their immediate thought is how hard the media is. And I said, 'Listen, I didn't see it that way.' And I had my share of bad headlines and things of that nature. But I never looked at it as a negative,” Van Gundy said. “In fact, I looked at the media as a positive. I found it an interesting give and take, but also I think it kept the team on edge, too, because oftentimes you didn't always have to be the bad guy by calling a guy out because sometimes the media would do the same. And I thought the same for the fans.”
Van Gundy added that he wasn’t surprised that Kerr chose the Golden State job over working for the Zen Master’s Knicks.
“I would've actually been more surprised, and I told him this, I would've been more surprised if he would've said no to Golden State once Golden State made him an offer,” Van Gundy said. “... When you look at where his children are and where his family resides, to me, just the familiarity of that state and that conference that he worked in when he was there in Phoenix as general manager, it all aligned ... I think Steve made a very sound decision.”
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