Phil Jackson's inability to land the coach of his choice is an "embarrassing situation" for the man granted total control over basketball operations of the New York Knicks, former Madison Square Garden President Bob Gutkowski said Thursday.
Jackson, the team president, and other officials within the organisation spent weeks wooing Steve Kerr, who Wednesday night surprised many around the National Basketball Association by accepting a five-year, $25 million contract with the Golden State Warriors.
"Phil has the ability to go out and do whatever he wants to do, and he couldn't get this done," said Gutkowski, who was MSG president from 1991-94 after joining the company in 1985. "It's an embarrassing situation for him."
Jackson, whose resume includes a record 11 titles as a coach, in March took over as the chief basketball decision maker for the Knicks after they missed the playoffs this season. Last month he fired Mike Woodson amid speculation that he'd already decided on Kerr, a Turner Sports analyst who under Jackson won three championships with the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls.
"That was the guy Phil wanted even before he had the job," Gutkowski said. "At the end of the day, he should have been able - and the organisation should have been able - to make it happen."
Kerr told NBA.com that it was "agonizing" to reject the offer from Jackson, citing family considerations.
A Southern California native who lives in San Diego, Kerr has a daughter at the University of California at Berkeley, close to the Warriors' home in Oakland.
"They have a good young team," Kerr told NBA.com. "The location is ideal. My daughter goes to Cal and plays volleyball. My oldest son is in college in San Diego and our youngest is a junior in high school. It's just a short flight for them."
Gutkowski isn't buying it.
"I understand West Coast and family, but there had to be more to it behind the curtain," Gutkowski said. "You don't know what it says as far as a little problem between (Knicks owner James) Dolan and Jackson. Kerr really did his homework. He learned a lot about the organisation. He probably heard enough negative comments that he figured he's better off in another place."
The Warriors, led by All-Star Stephen Curry, won 51 games in the stronger Western Conference this past season and lost a decisive Game 7 to the Los Angeles Clippers in their first-round playoff series. Golden State fired Mark Jackson, who, wins aside, clashed with management.
Kerr didn't respond to an email seeking comment on the Knicks, who went 37-45 this season. Jackson hasn't spoken publicly about the coaching search since the season ended. He said then that the team would have a coach hired before the July summer leagues.
"It was a great situation," said Kerr's agent, Mike Tannenbaum, the former general manager of the New York Jets. "Two organisations had an interest in him. He couldn't make a bad choice."
Jackson, according to ESPN, has a five-year contract worth about $60 million. The Knicks offered Kerr a four-year contract, Yahoo reported, citing league sources that it didn't identify.
"If Phil lost it because of one year and $5 million, then shame on Phil and shame on the organisation," said Gutkowski, who was forced out at MSG after it was sold by Viacom Inc. to Cablevision. "Kerr said he's better off heading West."
The Washington Post