If Phil Jackson calls, Jeff Van Gundy says he’d be happy to talk hoops with the Zen Master.
Jackson is in the midst of “Round 2” of his coaching search after being turned down by Steve Kerr.
Sources told ESPN.com last week that Jackson is looking for a young coach who he can mold and has a strong knowledge of the triangle offense. As of last week, the Knicks president hadn’t shown any proclivity to look outside of his inner circle for a coach.
But Jackson can always change his mind.
If he does, Van Gundy, who is reticent about discussing current coaching openings, said on ESPN Radio’s “The Ian O’Connor Show” Sunday that he’d be happy to “talk basketball” with the Zen Master.
“If Phil Jackson ever wanted to talk basketball with me, which, listen, who knows if that's true, but if he ever did, of course I would take the time, because I'm sure I could benefit from the conversation,” Van Gundy told O’Connor.
Van Gundy and Jackson were rivals when Van Gundy coached the Knicks and Jackson led the Bulls. There was bad blood between the two, which is only natural given the intense Knicks-Bulls rivalry in the 1990s.
But Van Gundy was highly complimentary of the Knicks’ hiring of Jackson last week when speaking on ESPN Radio’s “The Herd with Colin Cowherd."
Van Gundy, though, is considered a long-shot candidate for the Knicks’ job.
Instead, Jackson is expected to talk to former players such as Derek Fisher, Tyronn Lue and Luke Walton. Former player Bill Cartwright is also considered a candidate, as are former Phil assistants Jim Cleamons and Kurt Rambis.
Well-traveled head coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. and Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg are on the Knicks’ radar, as is Denver head coach Brian Shaw.
Hoiberg is the only name mentioned above that is not considered to have a close relationship with Jackson.
At this point, Van Gundy and Mark Jackson are not believed to be serious candidates. There is also no indication that Phil Jackson himself is considering coaching the Knicks.
Van Gundy said Sunday he understands why Jackson would want to hire someone he is close with and who is familiar with the triangle offense.
“I think it makes sense for him to talk to people that he philosophically shares a great deal of agreement on,” Van Gundy told O’Connor. “But even if you haven't coached, certainly, in a triangle system, I don't think that will preclude him from looking at people, because while you may not have had expertise, or experience coaching in the triangle, most coaches believe in unselfishness, floor balance, and defensive rebounding.
“So I'm not sure that whoever he hires is going to have had to have worked for him. I think it would be a benefit if he had worked with him before, but I think a lot of people could coach in a manner in which he would find it as a positive.”
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