The sports world was more than a little shocked when Steve Kerr accepted the head coaching job of the Golden State Warriors after weeks of speculation that he would take the vacant New York Knicks head gig. Now things have gotten even more interesting as Knicks president Phil Jackson is claiming that Kerr gave a verbal commitment to the Knicks before backing out.
Jackson claims he and Kerr came to a verbal agreement the day before the 48-year-old former NBA sharpshooter took the Golden State job. Jackson also says that he went so far as to tell Knicks star Carmelo Anthony that Kerr was coming. People across the NBA immediately assumed that Kerr had spurned New York and Jackson pretty badly when he took the Warriors job, so this really shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Golden State gave Kerr a huge, five-year, $25 million contract and their location was also apparently a selling point. But still, the fact that Kerr committed to Jackson – who he has always been close with – then took another job is a bit shocking.
Jackson had the following to say about Kerr backing out:
“I had to kind of release him to actually go to this job and say, ‘you have to do what’s right for yourself.’ I understood entirely the process he was going through to have that job open up. That was something he kind of thought would be a good fit for him. So that’s good, we’re happy for him.”
Jackson also refuted reports that Kerr’s contract demands were what knocked the Knicks out of it:
“There were plenty of things in the contract where he could have come here and been very satisfied. So that really wasn’t the issue. The issue was about California, and the issue was about – to be perfectly honest, it’s a better job for him. He’s a California guy. It’s a group of guys that are for him, been in the playoffs, been there, they have a really good operating team right now.”
Clearly Jackson is happy for his former pupil and I doubt he’ll hold any kind of grudge. The two have been friends for years after Kerr’s playing days.
Meanwhile, Jackson hasn’t sulked about losing Kerr though and he’s already moved on to looking at other candidates. One such potential head coach is Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher, who played for Jackson in Los Angeles for years. Clearly Fisher and Jackson know each other well and would likely work together perfectly if the former decides to retire from playing after this season.