The New York Knicks, forced to regroup after being trumped by Golden State in the race to hire Steve Kerr, relaunched their coaching search Thursday with new president Phil Jackson and several other team officials in Chicago for the start of the NBA's annual pre-draft camp.
Sources close to the process told ESPN.com that the most likely scenario, even after Jackson was snubbed by the only candidate he has considered for the position since taking the Knicks' job in March, remains hiring a younger coach Jackson has worked with previously and can mentor.
Three candidates who will thus receive consideration from Jackson, sources said, are Luke Walton and Tyronn Lue -- former players under Jackson who have already begun their coaching careers -- as well as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher -- if Fisher elects to stop playing after this season as he has hinted.
Sources said Jackson also intends to explore whether the Denver Nuggets are in any way amenable to releasing Brian Shaw from his contract in exchange for some form of compensation. Shaw is a longtime Jackson favorite who, after missing out on numerous head-coaching jobs, just completed his first season with the Nuggets, posting a 36-46 record despite numerous injuries to front-line players.
But Shaw told the Denver Post on Thursday: "I'm not interested in doing anything other than what I'm doing right now."
Had Shaw not taken Denver's job last summer, sources say he would have been at the top of Jackson's list with Kerr -- and conceivably above Kerr -- for the Knicks' opening.
Even after missing out on Kerr, all indications are that Jackson remains resistant to coaching the Knicks himself.
ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported Thursday that the Knicks are also tracking Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, who has considerable NBA experience as both a player and an executive. But Hoiberg recently signed an improved contract with the Cyclones and has resisted all recent feelers from the NBA, with sources saying he rebuffed a strong push from the Minnesota Timberwolves to take over from the retiring Rick Adelman within the past month.
Sources say that Jackson likewise has interest in a number of veteran coaches he has worked with previously, including Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons, Bill Cartwright and Frank Hamblen. Cartwright, in fact, has already interviewed with Jackson since he joined the Knicks, but it's believed only Rambis from that group would be considered for the top spot on the staff.
Since Jackson joined the Knicks for an annual salary of $12 million, his associates have maintained that the 68-year-old plans to be "heavily involved" working alongside his first coaching hire, especially in training camp. The comparison to the way Pat Riley mentored Erik Spoelstra in Miami has been made often at Madison Square Garden.
There have been no indications to this point that Jackson, after missing out on Kerr, will consider hiring an established coach, despite the loud clamor from Knicks fans to pursue Mark Jackson, whose controversial dismissal by the Warriors after 98 victories over the past two seasons opened the door for the team to swipe Kerr.
ESPN analyst and former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy is another theoretical candidate who would excite Knicks fans, while Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau -- who sources say New York planned to pursue had Jackson rebuffed Knicks owner James Dolan -- still has admirers within the Knicks organization.
But one source close to the situation insisted that Phil Jackson is not worried about selling New Yorkers on his eventual hire. It remains to be seen, of course, what impact hiring a relative neophyte would have on Carmelo Anthony's free agency, with Anthony possessing the ability to opt out of the final contract and put himself on the open market on July 1.
Walton worked as a developmental coach this season with the D-League's L.A. D-Fenders while also doing Los Angeles Lakers studio work, Lue is an assistant coach to Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers and Fisher is widely regarded as a future star in either coaching or the front office when the 18-year veteran decides he's ready to start the next phase of his career.