Phil Jackson would coach in right fit
Phil Jackson is "ready to go back to work," a source with knowledge of his thinking told ESPN.com on Friday.
The former Los Angeles Lakers and Chicago Bulls coach has spent the last couple of years working to improve his health -- which included several surgeries and a successful fight against prostate cancer -- and writing a book. But the itch to return to the NBA in some capacity is strong.
While Jackson has made it clear to any team that has approached him that he prefers a front-office role that would allow him to shape and mold a franchise the way Miami Heat president Pat Riley has, he is open to the possibility of coaching for a short period of time if it was necessary in a transition period for a franchise with championship aspirations, the source said.
He would not consider any coaching position that did not have a significant guarantee of personnel power as well, sources said.
Sources previously told ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that New York Knicks president and general manager Steve Mills recently met with Jackson regarding the possibility of him becoming the team's next coach. The sources said Jackson, 68, told the Knicks he was not interested in the position.
A source, meanwhile, confirmed to ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley that the Knicks have offered Jackson a front-office position.
The New York Daily News earlier had reported the offer, with a league source telling the newspaper that Jackson is expected to deliver his decision sometime next week.
Jackson, who has a career record of 1,155-485 in 20 seasons with the Bulls and Lakers, has won 11 NBA championships total. He previously has said health considerations precluded him from seriously considering a return to coaching, telling NBA TV in late January that "my stock answer has been I have no intention of coaching again."
He also passed on an opportunity to join the Toronto Raptors in an undefined role, later saying he preferred an opportunity to run a Seattle franchise had the Sacramento Kings been sold to Chris Hansen and relocated there.
After speaking at the Sloan Conference on sports analytics in Boston last week, Jackson told USA Today that he had several recent conversations with organizations about returning to the NBA.
"There are winners and losers in the NBA, and a lot of people are trying to reclaim their position or change their culture or whatever," Jackson told USA Today. "So yeah, there is [opportunity]. I've had conversations. Some of them are feelers. 'Are you interested?' type of thing."
The Knicks won their second straight game Friday night against the Utah Jazz but still are 17 games under .500 (23-40) with coach Mike Woodson.
"I really don't have an opinion on it," Woodson said before Friday's game when asked about the Jackson-to-New York reports. "I really don't. Again, as I sit here today, I am the coach of the New York Knicks. I am not going to entertain anything about Phil.
"I have a great deal of respect for Phil, but I am not going to entertain anything about Phil Jackson. My job is to try to get this team to play at a high level and we got a big game tonight against Utah and we got to get ready to play."
After the Knicks' win on Friday, Carmelo Anthony said he was aware of the reports about the franchise's interest in Jackson but was not privy to the organization's pursuit of the legendary coach.
"Of course you hear it," he said. "I heard it when I came in today. In the training room, that's all that's on on ESPN, so you see the stuff. But as far as me, personally I haven't heard anything of that nature. So it's hard for me to speak on something I don't know about."
Amar'e Stoudemire hopes the Knicks can weather the current round of rumors and remain focused on trying to sneak into the playoffs.
"I guess when you're not winning, it opens the doors for a lot of rumors, you know? Our job is to win. If we win, there wouldn't be any of these distractions. The door wouldn't be open for so many rumors," Stoudemire said before the game. "As players we've got to go out there and perform and win, that's all it boils down to."
Lakers center Pau Gasol, who won NBA titles with Jackson in 2009 and '10, said he could see him catching on again in some capacity with a team.
"I think his knowledge of the game is as good as it gets and I think he's probably at a point in his life that he cannot keep up with the schedule of being a head coach, so I see him being involved upstairs in the [front] office of a team, being involved in basketball decisions and helping a franchise hopefully get the right tools."
But Gasol had doubts about Jackson taking on a role simply to scout free agents.
"I don't know about recruiter. I don't know if I picture him as a recruiter," Gasol said. "But [in] basketball operations. Not just a consultant. I think he wouldn't be OK being just a consultant, but being a guy that calls the shots and makes certain decisions for the franchise. I think that's something that he will be comfortable with."
ESPNNewYork.com's Ian Begley and Ohm Youngmisuk and ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin contributed to this report.