- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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The New York Knicks' pursuit of Derek Fisher to be their new coach will ramp up this week and is widely expected to result in the hiring of the 18-year veteran guard, according to NBA coaching sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that new Knicks president Phil Jackson has been fully focused on Fisher since Steve Kerr unexpectedly decided to take the Golden State Warriors' job, when Jackson and essentially the whole league believed Kerr was bound for New York.
One source close to the talks said Monday that "things could take shape quickly in the early part of the week." The Knicks, though, are approaching this serious stage of talks with a hint of trepidation after the seemingly inevitable hiring of Kerr unraveled.
"Everyone felt that Kerr was a done deal too," another source cautioned. "Only Phil knows."
The Knicks' main fear, sources say, is if Fisher were to decide to keep playing. Provided Fisher opts for retirement, as most expect, New York is in prime position to hire the 39-year-old who has long been regarded as a natural leader. In addition to his role on five championship teams with the Lakers, Fisher served as president of the NBA Players Association and has long been regarded by Kobe Bryant as his favorite all-time teammate.
The consistent word since his arrival at Madison Square Garden in March is that Jackson was interested only in young coaching candidates he had worked with in the past and could mentor.
Fisher, like Kerr, is a trusted former player under Jackson whose longtime close relationship with the 11-time champion coach would suggest that he'll welcome Jackson's presence on the court in training camp and at occasional practices. Sources maintain that freedom is important to Jackson, who wants to establish and maintain an on-the-floor role in his first stint as the lead decision-maker in the front office for a franchise.
ESPN.com reported last month that Jackson, after missing out on Kerr, was essentially putting his search on hold until he could speak to Fisher, who was still in the midst of Oklahoma City's playoff run.
Jackson and the Knicks were recently fined $25,000 by the league for tampering after Jackson's public acknowledgment at a news conference that he had interest in hiring Fisher.