The mess would seem to scream for a veteran coach, especially with the team president a newbie himself. Jackson could've made a strong play for Mark Jackson, a New Yorker's New Yorker, or for Jeff Van Gundy, the last coach to lead the Knicks to the Finals and a potential candidate who said he was willing to listen if his old buddy happened to call. Jackson could've made the kind of run at John Calipari that Cleveland made, or he could've chased after a college coach with two national championships instead of one: Florida's Billy Donovan, who grew up in Long Island worshiping the Knicks.
He decided Kerr, then Fisher, were the safer bets, and perhaps Fisher will turn out to be better at this job than any experienced NBA or college coach the Knicks could've pursued. At the very least, Fisher deserves a fair and square chance to succeed.
But if Jackson was looking to match what Pat Riley accomplished with Erik Spoelstra after Riley hired and fired Stan Van Gundy, he needs to remember something: Spoelstra had spent more than a dozen years in the Miami Heat system, working his way from video coordinator to advance scout to assistant coach, before Riley promoted him to head coach in 2008.
Spoelstra was also hand-delivered LeBron James in the summer of 2010, after two straight first-round losses in the playoffs. Chances are, Spoelstra wouldn't have survived long enough to reach one Finals, never mind four in a row, if Riley didn't sign up James and Chris Bosh that summer to partner with Dwyane Wade.
Of course, Spoelstra never played in the NBA, something Fisher did for 18 distinguished seasons. Fisher can certainly make the claim that he learned more on the court about running a team than Spoelstra or any non-player could learn breaking down tape in a video room.
Jackson needs to help him either way. He needs to make the free-agent score in 2015 or 2016 that Riley made in 2010. In other words, against the odds, he needs to persuade James or Kevin Durant to leave their home sweet homes.
For now, that's a distant dream. Jackson just made his first significant move as designated savior of the Knicks, and it was a gamble, a big one. He thinks he can start building a team by building a coach by the name of Derek Fisher.
If he wants to prove the late, great Auerbach wrong in New York, hey, Phil Jackson had better be right on this one.