GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Phil Jackson will be looking for a new coach for the New York Knicks this summer and he has already eliminated the best possible candidate.
“Not one second,” Jackson said when asked if he had given any consideration to returning to the bench to coach after firing Derek Fisher. “But the instinct is still there. It’s not in my physical capabilities to do that.”
So with the Zen Master eliminating himself from consideration, Jackson was asked about Tom Thibodeau, widely considered to be the top coach available on the market right now.
Jackson got uncharacteristically testy when asked about the former Chicago Bulls head coach and Knicks assistant.
“Did you want me to respond to that?” Jackson asked. “How do I respond? I respect Tom as a coach, he’s a really good coach. But I’m not out soliciting. Have I said I’m soliciting coaches right now?”
Going by what Jackson said on Monday about what he is looking for in a head coach, the Thibodeau-to-Knicks movement favored by many fans has some obstacles in front of it.
Jackson said he does not have a list of coaching candidates he is looking at and also says there is not a coaching search underway. Jackson made it clear good friend and former assistant Kurt Rambis will be the coach for the remainder of the season. And, considering their relationship, the former Minnesota coach will be a candidate for Jackson to consider especially if Rambis does a good job the remainder of the season.
While Jackson says the triangle is not a prerequisite for the next head coach, the team president isn’t abandoning the system that helped him win 11 championships just because his first hand-picked coach didn’t work out.
“The system of basketball is what’s important,” Jackson said when asked if the next coach has to come equipped with the triangle. “When we’re talking about a system, it just happens to be a system that we are familiar with. It’s not paramount, but it’s important.”
"We’re looking for better starts, getting out of the gate a little bit better, better finishes," Jackson added later of what he wants this season. "We had a lot of what I consider standing around, one-on-one kind of situational stuff, in the game, where I like to see ball movement, player movement that brings out the best in the team. I think that could be one of the standards we’d like to see happen."
The next hint Jackson dropped as far as what he is looking for in Fisher’s replacement is that his having a previous relationship with the next Knicks coach is ideal.
“It’s always good to have a relationship,” Jackson said. “It’s not paramount. At some point I’m going to have to have a relationship with someone who’s going to coach this team. That’s just the way it works. Communication has to be there.”
There’s no shortage of coaching candidates for the Knicks. Besides Rambis, Jackson has disciples in former Nuggets coach Brian Shaw and current Warriors assistant Luke Walton.
And there are coaches with former Knicks ties out there like Thibodeau, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson and Scott Brooks.
“I haven’t thought about it,” Jackson said. “... Someone has to match the style of the way we do things and there’s a certain style that I have that I think works and I’ve found worked before. I don't know if all those people measure up to that, because I don’t know them well enough. But that’s an important aspect and we’ll find that type of person.”