There's been a lot made of the fact that Phil Jackson has seemed taken off guard following Steve Kerr signing with the Golden State Warriors. However, there's a good reason for that. Kerr had already given Jackson and the New York Knicks a verbal commitment to become their next head coach.
There's only one reason to not have a backup plan. You have to make sure your first plan is successful. But what do you do when your plan works and at the last second things fall through? In a case like that it's easy to look rudderless.
Unfortunately for Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks that's the exact impression they gave the sports world after being spurned by Steve Kerr and watching him announced as the Golden State Warriors next head coach instead of theirs.
Kerr only became a head coaching candidate because Jackson was so publicly interested in hiring him. However, when the Warriors offered Kerr their head coaching position he jumped at the chance to stay on the west coast and coach a superior roster.
That sent Jackson and the Knicks back to square one in their ongoing search. After all, Jackson was so convinced he had Kerr on board that he told Carmelo Anthony it was a done deal. Jackson was as surprised as anyone when the deal fell through. He even told reporters that before the job with the Warriors had even become available he had a commitment from Kerr.
Marc Berman of the New York Post reports that Kerr didn’t refute the allegation, admitting a deal with the Knicks was very close.
Steve Kerr, in response to Phil Jackson’s remark that he had “a commitment” from him to coach the Knicks, didn’t dispute the Zen Master, saying “we were very, very close’’ and “I thought I was coming there.”
Nevertheless, Kerr said there was not a deal done when he jumped at the Warriors offer of five years and $22 million.
This is where Kerr is playing word games to make himself look better. There was no deal done. That's true. They were still in negotiations on the length of the contract and the compensation. However, he had given Jackson a verbal commitment which means a deal was done. They just hadn't worked out the contract yet. Those are two different things.
“It’s not inaccurate,’’ Kerr said before broadcasting possibly his final game for TNT Saturday night in Game 6 of the Oklahoma City-San Antonio Western Conference finals. “We were very, very close. We never agreed to a deal. But we were very close. Things kind of went back and forth a bit. I thought I was coming there. Phil couldn’t have handled it any better. As I said last week, he knew I had to be 100 percent sure and he gave me the space I needed. It was just a better fit — Golden State.’’
Here's the bottom line. Kerr probably made the right choice professionally. He chose the better team in the better financial position. On top of that, he was able to stay in California. That's a nice bonus.
That being said, personally this was a shameful move. A man is only as good as his word. Kerr told his close friend and mentor he was coming to work with him. Then he turned around and publicly embarrassed his elder. The same guy who taught him a lot of what he knows and created the coaching market for him in the first place.
That's not something you do to your friend. Beyond that, it make Jackson look like he didn't know what he was doing or that he never thought past Kerr. The problem was, people didn't know that Jackson thought he had a deal done.
Why would he look for alternative coaches if he thought he had one in place. The answer is, he wouldn't. No one would. That's why things are always in the last spot you look. Why would you keep looking for it after you've found it? That doesn't make sense.
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