People close to Knicks president Phil Jackson raise the possibility that the Zen Master would offer to coach home games for the team next season and have Kurt Rambis coach on the road, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. It’s unclear what the chances of that coming to pass are, but it would stand as an intriguing compromise if Jackson meets resistance to the idea of hiring Rambis full-time, Shelburne posits. Jackson has often cited his health as he’s maintained in recent years that coaching is out of the question, but people around the 70-year-old say he appears to have more energy than usual, and he’s lost 20 of the 30 pounds he gained since taking the Knicks job, according to Shelburne. The ESPN scribe has several other coaching and front office revelations:
- Sources close to Jackson and the Lakers tell Shelburne it’s unlikely he leaves the Knicks to work for the Lakers and owner Jeanie Buss, Jackson’s fiancee. Jackson is enamored with his life in New York, Shelburne points out, nonetheless cautioning that nothing is certain, especially with the ever-cryptic Zen Master.
- Multiple vacancies may well open in the Lakers front office after next season, the last in the three-year timetable for executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss. It’s tough to see GM Mitch Kupchak continuing if Jim Buss steps down, even though Kupchak’s contract carries past next season, Shelburne writes. The Lakers must advance to at least the second round of the playoffs for Buss to keep his job, sister Jeanie Buss said to Sam Amick of USA Today last month, though she’s otherwise been vague about that benchmark, referring to the conference finals in another interview.
- It’s tough to say whether Warriors assistant Luke Walton would take either the Knicks or Lakers head coaching jobs if offered, those close to the situation tell Shelburne. Both teams are reportedly poised to target him in the offseason.
- Former Knicks coach Derek Fisher didn’t tell anyone from the organization that he was going to Los Angeles for a weekend in October, the trip on which he and Matt Barnes had their controversial encounter. Fisher had planned to make it back in time for practice the next Monday, but mechanical problems led to a flight delay that prevented him from returning, and his absence sparked the questions that brought the incident with Barnes to light, as Shelburne details.
- Fisher replied in only one-word answers when Jackson would text observations and suggestions, and the former point guard missed a Knicks coaches’ retreat that Jackson organized at the end of summer, according to Shelburne, but Jackson downplays the lack of communication. “Trying to create autonomy for Derek kind of separated me from direct contact,” Jackson said to Shelburne. “[GM] Steve Mills was [in] closer contact with Derek than I was because of our relationship in the past. Also, you guys [in the media] want to harp in on the fact that he was a puppet perhaps. I wanted him to have the autonomy to make decisions on his own and not feel like I was an overload.”