Since Steve Kerr turned Phil Jackson down and became the Golden State Warriors head coach the New York Knicks are have had to keep their search going for a new coach. Some of Jackson's former players such as Derek Fisher, Tyronn Lue and Luke Walton have recently been connected to the job. Could another former player of Jackson's, Ron Harper, become a candidate for the coaching job?
Ron Harper was a 6'6", 185 guard who played for four teams during his NBA career between 1986-2001. During that time he won five NBA championships, all with Phil Jackson as his head coach. Like other former players of Jackson, Harper has aspirations to one day coach in the NBA. Could Jackson give Harper that chance with the Knicks?
Today Harper spends his time coaching, training and mentoring youth basketball players at Overtime Sports in Wayne, New Jersey. He also works part-time for the NBA doing overseas camps. However, he gained NBA coaching experience as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons from 2005-07.
You were an assistant coach with the Detroit Pistons for two seasons, 2005-06 and 2006-07.
RH: It was a good experience. After getting that chance I feel good about helping somebody out, but now I had to make choice and focus on my family. I made the right choice right now, but I would like to get back in the game in four or five years.
It hasn't been four or five years. It's been two. Yet Harper is prepared to throw his name into the fray with the New York Knicks. Marc Berman of the New York Post reports Harper expects an interview with Phil Jackson.
Harper said he has texted with Jackson a few times since he got the Knicks job.
“I would expect so,” Harper said of interviewing for a coaching job. “A few guys are expecting to hear from him. We’re in a wait-and-see mode. Whatever he needs me to do, I will do. He knows that.”
“One thing Phil wants to do is teach what he knows and teach the triangle,” Harper said. “I know it like the back of my hand, inside out, and he knows I love the game.”
There's been plenty of former Jackson players mentioned as potential candidates for the open head coach and assistant positions. Harper would be a solid addition to the bench. However, he may be one of the better choices to take the head chair.
Harper learned under Lenny Wilkens, Don Casey, Mike Schuler, Larry Brown, Bob Weiss, Phil Jackson and others. He also served under Flip Saunders when he worked as an assistant in Detroit. To say he had good teachers is an understatement.
In a great article by Carolyn Hastings for CavsNews.com former Cavaliers teammate of Harper, Brad Dougherty explained how special Harper was to both Cleveland and the Chicago Bulls.
“That was the missing link. That’s what we needed. When we traded Ron Harper [in 1989], that’s what broke our backs. We never recovered from that. We never could. Michael [Jordan] always said that was the best thing that ever happened to him was when we got rid of Ron.
Maybe he could be the missing link for the Knicks as well. When compared to Kerr, Harper might not seem as attractive of a coaching target. Kerr doesn't have Harper's coaching experience but he's spent more time around the NBA since retiring as a player.
Kerr's time as general manager of the Phoenix Suns and as a television analyst for TNT trumps Harpers time as an assistant in Detroit. However, Kerr is out of the picture and at least Harper already knows what it's like being on the bench as a coach. He has intimate experience with Jackson and with the triangle offense.
Harper is clearly one of the former players who should be considered one of the best candidates for a coaching job with the Knicks. And that role shouldn't be limited to being an assistant. He's a solid candidate for the head coaching job as well.
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