NBA AM: Is Phil Jackson Right For The Nets?
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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When the Los Angeles Lakers were searching for a head coach, their general manager Mitch Kupchak said it would be negligent to ignore the fact that Phil Jackson is available. While the franchise ultimately went in a different direction with Mike D’Antoni, Jackson was their first interview and someone who their fan base wanted so badly that chants of “Phil!” broke out during the home games prior to D’Antoni’s hiring.
The Brooklyn Nets clearly noticed the kind of response Jackson provoked and now reportedly have him at the top of their list to replace Avery Johnson, who they fired after a sluggish December that followed a November that was so successful Johnson was named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month.
Along with great popularity and respect throughout the league, Jackson brings a resume that cannot be matched. His 11 NBA championships are the most in the league’s history; he would bring credibility to a Nets team that could greatly use it in their quest to become the best team in New York and a true championship contender.
“I think he’s the logical choice,” Nets guard Jerry Stackhouse said to The New York Daily News. “He’s been in a lot of big-time situations. That’s who he is. If I’m an owner or general manager and I’m going to make a coaching change, he’d definitely be the first guy I’d see if he had any interest.”
For now, the Nets are moving forward with P.J. Carlesimo as their interim head coach. Throughout Thursday evening, contradictory reports surfaced over Jackson’s interest in the Nets. There were a couple of outlets who said that he was not interested in the job, while others said that he is open to the possibility.
Here’s what we know for sure after Jackson’s interaction with the Lakers when their head coaching job was open: Jackson is interested in coaching again and while his price tag is understandably higher than any other head coach’s in the league, he does not have extraordinary demands outside of it. Jackson and his camp vehemently shot down reports that he wanted a stake in ownership and certain road trips off when considering a comeback with the Lakers.
Jackson also wasn’t pleased with the way things went down with the Lakers’ search. He thought he had until Monday to decide whether or not he wanted the job after an extended meeting with Kupchak and team vice president Jim Buss. However, instead he was awoken by a midnight phone call from Kupchak during the weekend letting him know that the team was going in a different direction with D’Antoni.
There has been a lot of speculation that Jackson’s fire was sparked by the snubbing and that he may not be content staying retired. That’s why it’s no surprise to see him associated with the Nets’ opening.
Jackson coaching the Nets is an intriguing idea. Whereas Johnson’s dictatorship-like approach wore on the Nets, Jackson would offer them freedom and look for them to grow together naturally. His triangle offense is one of the most complex and difficult systems to pick up, but Jackson is not a micromanager as Johnson was often described as. He’d figure out a way to get by as the team learns his system, especially since he’d be coming in midseason without a full training camp to completely install it.
The roster doesn’t seem tailor made for the triangle with a ball-dominant point guard in Deron Williams. However, this is a solid roster overall with enough talent to be a force in the Eastern Conference. Whether or not they can truly become a contender like they want depends on how well they adapt to Jackson or whoever is their next head coach.
There are plenty of quality options out on the market outside of Jackson. Stan and Jeff Van Gundy are still available, although Stan is reportedly uninterested. There’s also Larry Brown, the longtime NBA coach who is currently at the head of the SMU men’s basketball program, Mike Dunleavy, Mike Brown and Nate McMillan.
Dunleavy was a sleeper candidate for the Lakers job and was one of the few candidates who actually received an interview. As good of a coach as Brown is, it’s too early for him to be thinking about coming back. He seems pretty content to watch his son, who is a rising prospect likely headed to a high major program, finish out his high school career. Plus, that’s not the kind of hire that justifies firing a quality head coach like Johnson. McMillan was sought out by D’Antoni to join his staff on the Lakers, but he appears to be waiting for a head job and also doesn’t look to be a major upgrade over Johnson, which is what the team wants after letting him go at this junction of the season.
Regardless of who they hire, the Nets need to act quickly. The regular season is already 28 games old for most teams, leaving little time for Johnson’s permanent replacement to work with.
Doc Rivers Reflects: During his playing career, Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers spent a season with the Los Angeles Clippers. Upon his return to Los Angeles, he talked about his time with the team and the current Clippers team, which took it to Doc’s Celtics on Thursday night in a dominant 106-77 victory. Check out HOOPSWORLD’s video interview with Rivers below.
Knicks’ Depth Tested: The New York Knicks have done a stellar job of surviving without Amar’e Stoudemire so far this season. Unfortunately, right as they are on the verge of getting him back, they have lost starting point guard Raymond Felton for the next 6-8 weeks with a broken right pinkie.
Felton was brought in to replace the ultra-popular Jeremy Lin this offseason. It was a highly-criticized move, but Felton was playing the best basketball in his career outside of the last time he was a Knick. His 15 points and six assists a game are going to be missed while he is out, but it’s going to be another opportunity for the Knicks’ depth to shine.
While Felton is out they will likely lean heavily on Jason Kidd and rookie Pablo Prigioni Prigioni may be lacking experience at the NBA level, but at 35 years old he’s not lacking experience overall. He’s shown some intriguing flashes so far this year and will now have more of an opportunity to show what he can do now that Felton is out for potentially the next two months.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA chats on tap today, starting with mine at 11 a.m. EST. You can get your questions about the NBA, NCAA and NBADL in to me here. Next up will be Alex Kennedy at 1 p.m. EST. Kennedy can get you caught up on all the trade talk around the NBA, you can get your questions in to him here.