Throwing up one's hands is good practice for working for James Dolan. Photographer: Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

New York Basketball Isn't Big Enough for Two Jacksons

Kavitha A. Davidson is a former Bloomberg View columnist.
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Mark Jackson is suddenly in need of work. The former NBA player was fired yesterday by the Golden State Warriors despite three overall successful seasons as head coach. He's arguably the most desirable coach available on the free agent market; queue the speculation on where he'll end up next.

At the top of that list is the New York Knicks -- at least according to writers who want to keep the team in the local headlines. After new Knicks president Phil Jackson fired head coach Mike Woodson, it's been pretty much a given that Steve Kerr was the top candidate for the job. Things haven't changed on the Knicks' part, but now it appears the Zen Master finds himself in the middle of an entirely different kind of triangle.

Two other teams -- the Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers -- are reportedly interested in hiring Kerr. While the Knicks' job comes with certain advantages (extensive resources and Phil Jackson's mentorship), it also comes with one obvious catch (owner James Dolan). Meanwhile, Golden State and LA would be appealing to Kerr, who lives in California and already has a strong relationship with Warriors owner Joe Lacob and his son, Kirk.

Kerr could very well be using the Knicks as leverage to negotiate with the other two teams, or he could ultimately opt for the money and learning experience in New York. He has no coaching experience and would benefit greatly under the tutelage of Phil, who coached Kerr through five seasons and three straight titles with the Chicago Bulls. We thankfully won't have to wait long to find out; Kerr is expected to make a decision by the end of this week.

So where does that leave Mark Jackson? His name was floating around for the Knicks job even before the Warriors let him go, and many think he's a better option than Kerr. In addition to head coaching experience, he's proven that he can take a mediocre team like Golden State and lead it to a winning record and the playoffs. He also has an extensive history with the Knicks: Born and raised in Brooklyn, he was the team's first found pick in 1987 and won league rookie of the year. He played the first five seasons of his career in New York, and came back for a two-year stint in 2000. If you thought the Knicks laid it on thick with their "Welcome Home" shtick when they introduced Phil as president, imagine what they'd do for a New York native and former first-round pick. (I'm picturing ads featuring a pickup game on those basketball courts Carmelo Anthony just built in Red Hook.)

By all accounts, however, Phil wants to stick with his guy, and the Knicks have yet to contact Mark about the coaching job. If Kerr chooses to stay in California, that would in theory open the door for Mark to return to New York. But he'd be crazy to even consider it. Let's not forget that this is a team that shafted its homegrown star with not one, but two ill-advised trades. In 1992, Mark lost his starting job to Mo Cheeks and the Knicks broke our hearts by shipping him off to the Los Angeles Clippers for Charles Smith, Bo Kimble and Doc Rivers, described by the New York Times at the time as "a bit creaky." A decade later, they did it again, trading Mark and another crowd favorite, Marcus Camby -- not to mention the rights to their seventh overall draft pick, Nenê -- to the Denver Nuggets for Antonio McDyess. Does he really want to give the Knicks a third opportunity to mess with his career?

On a more practical, less emotionally vengeful level, the Knicks in their current state probably aren't the best fit for a coach like Mark Jackson. He is a guy with a big personality who was run out of Golden State because he clashed with Warriors management. He needs a team with a more hands-off front office, and the Knicks are the absolute opposite of that. Phil has made it perfectly clear that he's steering the ship, and whomever he hires will have to live under his guidance and implement his famous triangle offense. New York is simply not big enough for two Jacksons.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Kavitha A Davidson at

To contact the editor on this story:
Toby Harshaw at