Seeing how under-the-radar it was, you may have missed hearing that Phil Jackson finally agreed to join the Knicks front office this past week. The “Zen Master” has already had a positive effect with the team winning six straight since all the chatter began about Jackson heading to New York. This surge has the team just three games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Even if the Knicks continue on this torrid pace and make the playoffs, not many expect it to be a deep run, especially if they draw Miami or Indiana in the first-round.
What does this mean for coach Mike Woodson‘s future with the team? He has been on the hot-seat for most of the season, and every loss added to the talk that team owner James Dolan would cut Woodson loose. Lately the rumors have been that the team is holding onto Woodson in order to make him the scapegoat for the team’s problems, and use that to convince Carmelo Anthony to re-sign with the team.
No matter how you look at it, the Knicks coaching position will be a hot topic of conversation until Dolan or Jackson come out and definitively say that Woodson will be the coach next season, or until the ink is dry on the contract of whomever they bring in to replace him. Even then the talk might not die down, these are the Knicks after all.
Here are some of the candidates who could be walking the sidelines for the Knicks next season:
- Mike Woodson: In parts of three seasons with the Knicks, Woodson has a 98-74 record. His lifetime record is 304-360, which includes his time with the Knicks and six seasons with the Hawks. Woodson has been criticized for his lack of in-game adjustments by some of the players as well as the media. There also have been reports that the coach has lost the locker room.
- Phil Jackson: A long shot, but there have been rumors that Jackson might be willing to coach for a short time just to get the team moving in the right direction. The “Zen Master” has a career record of 1155-485, including 11 NBA titles as a coach, plus one as a player. The other possible reason Jackson could return to the sidelines is a ploy to re-sign Anthony, or to possible try and lure LeBron James, or other big name free-agents to the team. This is also a long shot, because the Knicks won’t have enough cap room to make a big name signing until 2015.
- Tom Thibodeau: The rumors of Thibs replacing Woodson started before Phil Jackson was hired, so it’s unknown if Jackson would see him as a fit. There’s also the matter of Thibodeau being under contract with the Bulls next season. Thibodeau is regarded as one of the best defensive coaches in the NBA, and his players have extremely positive things to say about the locker room environment he creates. In four seasons of being a head coach, all with the Bulls, he has a 193-102 record.
- Steve Kerr: Kerr has never been a head coach at any level. He was GM of the Suns for four seasons, and though it has been rumored he wants to try his hand at coaching, he could join the Knicks as a GM instead.
- Jeff Van Gundy: Van Gundy has been out of coaching since the 2006/07 season. He has a career record of 430-318, and had previously coached the Knicks for seven seasons. He has stated he regrets leaving the team during the 2001/02 season, and reportedly has a good relationship with Dolan.
- Stan Van Gundy: He’s been out of coaching since the 2011/12 season and is also well regarded around the league. Van Gundy has a career record of 371-208 over eight seasons with the Heat and the Magic.
- Mark Jackson: A former Knicks player and the current coach of the Warriors in his third season with the team. Jackson’s job has been rumored to be in jeopardy thanks to the team not performing up to preseason expectations, despite their 41-26 record. His career coaching numbers are 111-104.
- Kurt Rambis: Rambis served as the Lakers’ assistant GM when Jackson was hired as coach He later became an assistant coach under Jackson between 2001 and 2009. He then became head coach of the Timberwolves, and in two seasons with the team compiled a record of 32-132.
- Brian Shaw: Shaw also served as an assistant coach under Jackson, then spent two years as an assistant with the Pacers before landing his first head coaching job with the Nuggets this year. He is well versed in the triangle offense, which was one of Jackson’s staples with the Lakers. His record with Denver is 29-36, but the team has been devastated by injuries this season.
- John Calipari: The general consensus is that it’s only a matter of time before Calipari makes a return to the NBA as a coach. Prior to Jackson being hired, it was rumored that the Knicks would pursue Calipari after the season. In 22 seasons as a college coach, Calipari has a 591-175 record. He coached the Nets for parts of three seasons and had a record of 72-112.
- Jim Cleamons: He won nine championship rings as an assistant under Jackson with the Lakers and the Bulls. He is another coach who is an expert at the triangle offense. Cleamons also played for the Knicks, and was a teammate of Jackson’s as well. He coached the Mavericks during the 1996/97 season, going 24-58. He was fired early the next season after the team went 4-12 to begin the year. There’s a possibility that he could be brought in as an assistant coach as well now that Jackson has taken over.
Who do you think will coach the Knicks next season? Cast your vote and sound off in the comments section below with your thoughts.