- Ian O'Connor, ESPN Senior Writer
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Now that Steve Kerr has chosen the Golden State Warriors, spurning his old coach and good friend to stay in his home state and coach a better team, it is time for Phil Jackson to do what he should have done the moment this season ended: Pick up the phone, call Mark Jackson and offer the former Warriors coach the job as the next coach of the New York Knicks.
It'll be the first thing Jackson has done right since accepting $12 million a year for the next five years as the Knicks' president of basketball operations two months ago. And it needs to be done in a hurry because, quite honestly, the clock is ticking.
The latter is not being said because teams are knocking down Jackson's door. In fact, at the moment, they are not. But none of this should matter when you are a franchise as dysfunctional as the Knicks, who tried to pull off a PR stunt by thinking they simply had to hire Jackson to quell the momentum of criticism aimed fiercely in their direction. Because as the weeks have passed, it's clear that little has changed with this franchise aside from adding an additional face.
And before Jackson gets too comfortable, it's time someone tells him he'll look no better than chairman James Dolan unless he makes a splash quick, fast and in a hurry.
The only surprise about Kerr accepting the Warriors' job is that it took him so long to do it. Forget all the talk you heard about Golden State's interest in Stan Van Gundy because that was never going to work anyway. As gifted a coach as Van Gundy is, it was widely known he wanted control the Warriors weren't willing to surrender, especially to a coach known for wearing emotions on his sleeve -- the antithesis of who Mark Jackson was to a locker room full of Warriors' players who loved playing for him.
For those wondering why a man who never even coached prep players was hired, let's just say if there's such a course regarding schmoozing with all the right people, the now-$25 million man who is Steve Kerr would pass with flying colors.
If the Zen Master had such skills, Kerr might be in Gotham City right now. Except he isn't, in all likelihood because of Dolan's influence. Indeed, if the reports are true that the Knicks refused to guarantee a fourth year for Kerr, even Boo Boo the Fool knows such a scenario has Dolan's name written all over it.
So now where does that leave the Knicks?
To Knicks fans, it would be disgusted. Because, after all the singing and dancing about how Jackson is in control of basketball operations, we might have learned how limited it is thanks to Dolan. And if that's the case, what's to stop it from continuing? Especially if Jackson, 69, still insists he has no intentions of coaching.
Hello, Mark Jackson! How ya doing?
This is the play the Knicks need to make right now. Not just because Mark Jackson has proved he can coach. Not just because he guided the Warriors to back-to-back appearances in the playoffs for the first time in 22 years. But because, as a product of Queens, a St. John's alum and a former NBA Rookie of the Year for this Knicks franchise, he also qualifies as one of the rare few individuals this city would welcome with open arms. Plus, Jackson actually wants the job, wants to work the sideline and isn't asking for $12 million per year to do it.
Before the Knicks can win on the court, they need to win the pregame and postgame. The Knicks need to win in the court of public opinion, to have a coach who evokes patience and fandom all in one. And not just so Cablevision can win on Wall Street but also to have a chance at winning Carmelo Anthony.
Performing his due diligence, Anthony is paying attention to everything. Just as he has become more and more educated about what the Bulls, Lakers, Rockets, Clippers and others might have to offer as a future destination, he's also paying attention to what the Knicks have to offer.
Melo knows the Knicks had a chance at LaMarcus Aldridge and blew it. He knows they snubbed a trade that would've brought Rajon Rondo to New York or Kyle Lowry in a separate deal. All season, he sat around, played hard and averaged 27 points per game, while the Knicks stood idly by and did nothing -- primarily because Dolan wouldn't allow them to, telling the team in multiple meetings that the players weren't going anywhere.
And who can say matters have gotten better since he has hired Phil Jackson?
Jackson's first move was to bring Lamar Odom on board (we'll be kind and avoid elaboration on this one, folks!)
Jackson also made sure to fire Mike Woodson and the entire coaching staff. But Jackson also tried to get slick by publicly attempting to pressure Melo into accepting less money if indeed the Knicks' star elects to opt out, oblivious to how it would rub Melo the wrong way -- as it most certainly did.
So maybe someone else is needed to communicate with Melo, exercising persuasive dialogue. Because chances are President Jackson has lost some cachet in that category, at least for the moment.
Which brings us back to Pastor Jackson.
Known for having sermonlike tendencies, since he does have his own church in Los Angeles, that never stopped Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and the crew from going all out for Jackson on and off the court.
Every one of them swore his love for Jackson. They vouched for his ability to communicate and understand them. To push their proverbial buttons, to peel max effort from them and, more importantly, to get results.
"The fact that there was even talk about him being gone was insane to me, to all of us," veteran Jermaine O'Neal said during the playoffs.
Insane, but true! Jackson is gone now, but his loss could be the Knicks' gain. He's intelligent enough to be taught President Jackson's triangle offense. He's savvy and knowledgeable enough to handle the local New York media. He can win any locker room, and chances are Melo would love to play for him.
If nothing else, it's worth it for President Jackson to make a phone call. Especially if he understands New York. And given that he's telling players he'll be around and he plans on running training camp in October, what's the harm?
To know Gotham City is to accept one thing: We appreciate you until you provide us with a reason not to ... by not giving us something to appreciate, cherish and cheer for.
Since President Jackson isn't interested in being Coach Jackson, he has already dropped the ball.
He didn't get his man, Kerr, as everyone knows he wanted to do.
Strike three, at the moment, would be passing on Jackson.
And no one swings it like New Yorkers who ain't happy.
4dSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann