Steve Kerr’s shocking decision to spurn the Knicks is bad mojo for Knicks fans. It’s not because the Knicks missed out on Kerr, necessarily. Indeed many have pointed out that the man has never coached a single game, so there’s no basis to conclude that he might be passable in that role (other than his reputation and the fact that several teams apparently coveted him over the last few weeks). But that rejoinder is far afield of the point. Losing out on Kerr could mean a couple of things which both portend badly.
First, as Robert touched upon, Kerr’s decision seriously tarnishes the sheen that had enveloped Phil, who the Knicks are paying $60,000,000 over 5 years because of his gravitational pull and charisma. The idea is that these characteristics should constitute enough persuasive authority to enable him to land his first target, in any context, every time. Well, it didn’t take long for that perception to implode (actually I guess it kind of took awhile for Kerr to play Phil like a fiddle). Quick: Who was the last coveted target to say no to Pat Riley?
Now the groundwork has been laid for players and executives to turn their back on Phil and echo Kerr by citing their families and vague “situations”. Of course, principally I am referring to Melo. But beyond that, LeBron, Kevin Love, Durant, whoever. Each can plausibly think “This guy couldn’t even land HIS OWN GUY, who, incidentally, hasn’t coached a day in his life, and I’m supposed to trust him to convince people to join me here?”
As an aside: We learned from Chris Herring that when Carmelo and Phil fine dined at American Cut, Phil focused on selling Kerr to Carmelo. How embarrassing. Does Phil need a second dinner now to sell Melo on someone else and to explain how, oops, he couldn’t get his initial plan off the ground?
The second reason Kerr’s decision to Heisman the ‘bockers is just as, if not more disconcerting:
Jim Dolan refused to allow Donnie Walsh to hire Chris Mullin & did all he could to sabotage Phil Jackson hiring Steve Kerr. History repeats
— Frank Isola (@FisolaNYDN) May 15, 2014
I don’t think I need to spell out why Dolan’s meddling is a bad thing. We’ve all been through some terrible times as Knicks fans during his reign. And while it’s perfectly acceptable to take issue with Isola’s personality or tone (and I have a regrettable history in this regard), or the fact that he may have an ax to grind, or his body odor (dunno, never met him, but maybe), I generally don’t believe he makes things up out of whole cloth.
I’m going to sink down a terrible rabbit hole now, ugh. There have already been reports that Dolan stood in the way of Phil’s move to purge a medical staff that occupies the same space as the Mets on the effectiveness scale. These have now been followed up by reports that Dolan “sabotage[d]” Phil’s pursuit of his favored coach, piercing his aura of infallibility. And these events have transpired during what should be Phil and Dolan’s honeymoon. It makes me wonder, if true, why Phil would not just pack up his yoga mats and incense and head back to Santa Monica, and await other lucrative opportunities. I think that that is what I would do.
But even if Dolan isn’t actively undermining Jackson – and a few weeks ago, Phil insisted that Dolan has kept his promise – the specter of Dolan remains, and will potentially always remain. As Harvey Araton wrote this AM:
…While Jackson came calling with his 11 championship coaching rings and his illustrious past, he also brought the baggage of a new partner. Guarantees of autonomy notwithstanding, he works for James L. Dolan, the chairman of Madison Square Garden, whose record as the ultimate (and meddling) boss of the Knicks also speaks for itself….[Kerr] worried about Dolan’s patience, his willingness to allow Jackson the freedom to potentially let Anthony — Dolan’s signature acquisition and the Knicks’ only brand-name star — leave as a free agent this summer should they fail to agree on how much of a hometown discount, if any, Anthony should accept to give Jackson salary cap flexibility.
In doing his homework and speaking to many people about Dolan’s methodology, Kerr became concerned about an inevitable clash between ownership and the fiercely independent and occasionally iconoclastic Jackson.
The cautionary part of the story is that while Kerr did not believe Dolan obstructed Jackson in the pursuit, Dolan impacted the decision by merely being who he is. In planning his next play, the smart coach must always weigh the likelihood of past being prelude.