Schmeelk: What Is Phil Jackson Doing In Montana?
By John Schmeelk
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Yesterday, Dave Joerger reached an agreement to coach the Sacramento Kings.
Phil Jackson remains in Montana.
Frank Vogel is reportedly getting close to coaching the Memphis Grizzlies.
Steve Mills reached out to Vogel's agent last week, but Jackson does nothing.
David Blatt met with the Houston Rockets yesterday.
Jackson met with him weeks ago, but since then? Crickets.
The idea that in the digital age Jackson is sitting in Montana on vacation and out of touch with what's happening in the league seems absurd. There are cellphones, tablets and computers. But as every day goes by and the Knicks do nothing as competent head coaching candidates get hired by other teams, it seems more and more plausible.
If this was a HBO program about the Knicks, Jackson would be on some sort of vision quest guided by foreign substances, the spirits and his own Zen to find the Knicks' next coach. He would emerge from gray mists surrounding him on Montana's northern Rockies, revealing who will guide the Knicks to their ultimate destiny. Unfortunately for the spirits, they might have taken too long, and their true choice would already be employed by another organization.
MORE: Keidel: Knicks Coaching Search Has Been Doomed From The Start
You get the feeling that Jackson is playing his own version of run out the clock. If he stays in Montana long enough, all the realistic coaching options for the Knicks will be hired elsewhere, leaving Jackson with only one choice: Kurt Rambis. Conveniently, was that also always Jackson's top choice? But if that's the case, why wait this long to pull the trigger?
The truth is no one has any clue what Jackson is doing out there. He could be using his time very wisely planning the Knicks' future in a responsible manner. He could be talking to all these coaches in the most secretive way the NBA has ever seen. Or he could be finding inner peace and taking a break from the anxiety of his eight-figure salary job. This is really one of the more unique things anyone will ever see by a president running an NBA organization. Jackson is his own man. No one can argue that.
What could really be the holdup? Jackson knew since he fired Derek Fisher in February that he would have to make a decision on a head coach this offseason. The Knicks haven't played in a game since April 12. He should have had every coach evaluated, employed or not, to make the best decision for the team the best way possible. Instead, the portrayal is that he can't even decide if he wants to follow up Steve Mills' phone call and interview Vogel. What is he waiting for?
Why not interview Vogel? What's the harm? Maybe you hate the guy, or maybe you love him, but at least find out. He spoke to Blatt two weeks ago. He has known Rambis for more than a decade. What other information could he be gathering? How much more time does he need to make up his mind?
Even if the Knicks were cynically holding back on hiring Rambis to prevent season-ticket cancellations, that deadline passed over the weekend.
For once, the Knicks were actually really fortunate to have a number of very qualified candidates available at the time they needed a head coach: Tom Thibodeau, David Blatt, Dave Joerger, Frank Vogel, and Kenny Atkinson, among others. Any one of those hires would have been more than just fine. He can still make a move for Vogel or Blatt.
It really is an easy decision. Sure, Rambis runs the triangle, but there is a lot more to coaching than simply running an offense. Rambis might be able to coach the triangle, but can he motivate his team to get their maximum effort on defense? Can he manage his locker room and players emotionally? Can he make in-game decisions? From what we've seen so far, the answers to those questions are a resounding no.
Vogel had a great relationship with his players. He got them to play defense. He won in the league consistently and failed only when he lost his superstar, Paul George. Blatt's Cavaliers were the top team in the East. He competed with the Warriors in the Finals without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. He won titles overseas. Vogel might be a safer choice, but Blatt's upside is huge.
Either man would not just be an acceptable choice, but a good one. Rambis would set the Knicks down a path that might lead to season much more similar to 2014-15 than 2015-16.
So what's Jackson thinking? No clue. What's he doing? Nobody knows. What is he waiting for? No idea. Where are the Knicks headed? On a one way trip to Rambisville? Knicks fans everywhere hope Jackson decides to take a detour along the way.
• Fun game Monday night between the Trail Blazers and Warriors. Stephen Curry is back, but he didn't look like himself until overtime, when he lit up Portland. The Blazers have put one helluva season together, especially given the talent they lost in the offseason, but I'll be shocked if they get the series back to Portland.
• The fact the Raptors were able to get the Heat to overtime with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan shooting a combined 6-of-28 does not bode well for the Heat the rest of the series. Give Dwyane Wade credit, though, for how he is still able to step up and make some amazing basketball plays to help his team win games. That steal at the end of the game was fantastic.
For everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports, follow John on Twitter at @Schmeelk
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