TNT commentator Steve Kerr will give coaching a try. (Kathy Willens / AP)

Steve Kerr was the one guy, the only guy, Phil Jackson wanted as he goes about the Herculean task of trying to rebuild the New York Knicks.

But even the Zen Master doesn’t always get what he wants.

Kerr turned down his old coach, opting to go to Golden State rather than Gotham, taking over a talented team rather than one the figures to be gutted. Kerr, 48, has never coached before, he adores Stephen Curry and now gets to coach him — and stay on the West Coast. “Ultimately, it was agonizing to say no to Phil because of what I think of him and what he’s done for my career,” Kerr told David Aldridge. “When Phil Jackson asks you to coach the Knicks, how do you say no? I think they’re going to turn it around, but going to be a big undertaking and it’s going to take time. The idea of doing that 3,000 miles from home, it just didn’t feel right.”

ESPN reports that Golden State sold Kerr on their job by reminding him what a mess the Knicks are under owner James Dolan and how Larry Brown and Mike D’Antoni couldn’t cut it with the team. There might have been institutional knowledge, too, supplied by Mike Tannenbaum, the former New York Jets general manager who represented Kerr with Priority Sports. Maybe it shouldn’t have been such a surprise that Kerr said no to the coach with whom he won three titles. “If Kerr really was doing his due diligence on the Knicks, and their entire operation, from the owner to the guys still working under Jackson in the front office to scouting, even to public relations and the medical staff, he would have to have seen an infrastructure that is really no infrastructure at all,” Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News wrote. “Had he gone ahead and taken the job anyway, because of his faith in Jackson — and we’ll find out how Phil is going to thrive and survive, as Clyde would say, with the permanent government — then he simply would have been ignoring all he found out about the reality of James Dolan’s Garden, at least on the basketball side.”

New York’s tabloids summed up the punch to Phil’s gut:

Now Jackson starts all over. Kerr “didn’t want to hurt Phil Jackson in the process,” ESPN New York’s Ian O’Connor writes, “but he hurt him all the same. Suddenly, the $60 million savior is in need of some serious saving himself.”

Only no matter whom Jackson covets on the rebound, he’s already been scarred 15 minutes into the job. If it turns out Dolan got in the way of this deal, shame on him for breaking his pledge of “willingly and gratefully” surrendering control of basketball operations. And shame on Jackson for failing to impose his will on a boss who is so clearly starstruck in his presence.

The Knicks’ president has some explaining to do to [Carmelo] Anthony, who heard all about Kerr over that recent dinner at a Manhattan steakhouse. Melo couldn’t have been any more impressed by this botched courtship of a coach than he was by Jackson’s public call for him to take a salary hit this summer for the betterment of the team.

Where does Jackson go from here? To Kurt Rambis, Mark Jackson or Derek Fisher? That guy with 11 rings doesn’t want to coach, but he does happen to be the best option. From Lupica:

No one knows if Steve Kerr can coach, even though he leveraged himself, thanks to Phil Jackson and the Knicks, into being the hottest candidate who’s never coached a day in his life, at least if you don’t count him sitting next to Marv Albert on television. But what we have always known about Kerr, all the way back to his playing days, this guy who played for Jackson and Gregg Popovich, is that he is one of the smartest guys in the room. He shows you that now by turning down the Knicks for the Warriors.

Maybe now Jackson will go after the best coach out there who does have actual experience, like 11 championships, that kind of experience, to coach the Knicks.

That means Phil himself.


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