New York Knicks president Phil Jackson continues to send out signals that he's in no rush to hire a coach until he can seriously discuss the position with Oklahoma City's Derek Fisher, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com on Sunday that Jackson is planning to proceed with a deliberate coaching search after the Knicks, convinced they were getting Steve Kerr, watched their runaway No. 1 candidate choose the Golden State Warriors instead.
Fisher's interest in coaching remains a matter of debate, with Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks telling the New York Daily News over the weekend that it wouldn't surprise him if the 18-year-veteran decided to play on for one more season. Either way, Fisher is trying to deflect all questions about his future -- as a coach or front-office executive -- until after the playoffs, hoping to limit distractions as the Thunder prepare to face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals starting Monday night.
During the last round of the playoffs, Fisher said, "I would tell people to allow me to finish my career as a player before they give me another job after that. It's humbling, just to think about people thinking of me in that manner, especially while I'm still playing. [But] I promise you this is the last thing on my mind at this point. I really haven't thought about it that much. Hopefully there's a lot of basketball left to be played this season for sure. Once that's done we'll go from there."
Sources say that in addition to Fisher, the Knicks still have interest in Denver Nuggets coach Brian Shaw but do not currently plan to ask the Nuggets' permission to speak with him. Because league rules restrict teams to offering only cash or draft picks as compensation for coaches, and not players, sources say New York fears it likely can't meet the Nuggets' demands if it were to try to get Shaw out of his contract.
Jackson is a longtime Shaw fan who, sources say, would have had the Nuggets' coach atop his wish list (along with Kerr) had Shaw been a coaching free agent this summer. But the Knicks' barren cache of draft picks would appear to snuff out any hope of extricating Shaw from the last two years of a three-year contract that averages roughly $2 million per season. Shaw posted a 36-46 record this season with the injury-riddled Nuggets. New York, for the record, doesn't have a first-round pick to offer any team in any deal until 2018.
Jackson's preference since ousting Mike Woodson has been hiring a coach he's worked with in the past, either as a player or a former assistant like Shaw. But sources say that the limited options at his disposal after missing out on Kerr could prompt the 11-time champion coach to start broadening his approach.
ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard confirmed over the weekend that Jackson has discussed the vacancy with veteran NBA coach Mike Dunleavy. Sources say Jackson has not ruled out a sit-down with Knicks fan favorite Mark Jackson, who has rejoined ESPN as a broadcaster after his dismissal by the Warriors.
Former NBA head coach Kurt Rambis, who worked as an assistant to Mike D'Antoni with the Lakers last season, and current D-League developmental coach Luke Walton of the L.A. D-Fenders are on Jackson's short list as well. But sources say Rambis and Walton are more likely regarded as potential assistants for the eventual head coach, with another of Jackson's former players with head-coaching experience -- Bill Cartwright -- having already received an interview for what was presumed to be a spot on Kerr's bench.
Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue, who played briefly under Jackson as a Laker, has also been mentioned repeatedly as a name on Jackson's radar.
The Knicks, sources say, remain convinced that they were on the brink of a deal with Kerr when Stan Van Gundy unexpectedly took the Detroit Pistons' offer to serve as their coach and team president last week, which led to Golden State making a renewed pitch to Kerr that ultimately trumped New York's offer.