Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher to chat

ByMarc Stein and Ramona Shelburne via ESPN logo
Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Phil Jackson's first substantive chat with Derek Fisher about the New York Knicks' coaching job is scheduled to take place this week, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources told Monday that Jackson is planning to connect with Fisher by week's end, giving the Oklahoma City Thunder guard some time to decompress after his team was eliminated by San Antonio Saturday night in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.

One source cautioned that the discussion shouldn't be classified as a formal interview, given the long and close working relationship between Jackson and Fisher during their two stints together as coach and player with the Los Angeles Lakers. But another source close to the process told that he thinks Fisher will ultimately find the allure of coaching in New York under Jackson too difficult to pass up.

ESPN reported earlier Monday that Jackson was fined href="" target="_blank"5,000 by the league for tampering with Fisher in the form of openly discussing the prospect of hiring his former player during a news conference last week.

As reported May 19, Jackson essentially put his coaching search on hold to wait to speak to Fisher first after missing out on initial top target Steve Kerr, who spurned the Knicks to coach the Golden State Warriors.

Sources say that the Lakers, meanwhile, remain interested in discussing their vacancy with Fisher but also continue to proceed with a more deliberate coaching search than the Knicks. The Lakers -- who have interviewed coaching veterans Byron Scott, Alvin Gentry, Lionel Hollins and Mike Dunleavy, in addition to discussions with former Lakers player and coach Kurt Rambis and ESPN analyst George Karl -- are not yet locked into one candidate. The Lakers, sources add, have also internally discussed reaching out to Scott Skiles and former NBA championship-winning coach Larry Brown, who has spent the past two seasons in the college game at SMU.

Fisher said Sunday he remains undecided about retirement, but sources say Jackson continues to hold out hope he can persuade the 39-year-old to make the immediate jump to coaching -- as Jason Kidd did last season with Brooklyn -- after Fisher's 18 seasons as a player.

"I'm still struggling with the results of [the series]," Fisher told local reporters Sunday. "I haven't [had] a chance to talk to my wife and kind of step back emotionally from the end of the season. That's important to do, so that whatever is next, there has to be a separation from the end of the season and what just happened and then I can go from there."

Since Jackson agreed to take over as Knicks president in March, sources say he has always intended to hire a young coach he could mentor. Kerr was unquestionably his top choice, with Jackson going so far as to reveal during Friday's news conference that he had a verbal commitment from Kerr before Golden State swooped in. But the idea was always to hire someone he's worked with in the past who would also welcome Jackson's on-the-floor presence at training camp and practices, thus allowing the 68-year-old to have more of an impact than he might have if restricted to a front-office role.

During his second stint coaching the Lakers, Jackson was known to have proposed a scenario in which he would coach home games and Rambis, his trusted assistant, would coach road games. The Lakers never seriously considered accepting such an unorthodox approach, but hiring a young coach now to take over for the fired Mike Woodson would theoretically allow Jackson to create a modified version of that arrangement in which he maintains an occasional coaching presence with his new team while running its basketball operations.

In the news conference Friday, Jackson acknowledged that Fisher is "a person that's on my list of guys that could be very good candidates for this job."

"There's for sure huge layers added to [the decision]," Fisher said Sunday. "The personal relationship and professional relationship that I've had with Phil Jackson over the years, and being in the position that he's in. And also, with the Lakers having an opening, it for sure adds layers to it. But like other important decisions in life, I don't think you can be driven by what's going on externally. You have to have an internal set of boundaries and just kind of a compass that you make decisions by. I'll combine all those things as I try and make the best decision possible."

Fisher continued: "In the last maybe decade or so, I've really felt like my purpose in life, my calling so to speak, was to be in a leadership position or some position of impact on other people. Coaching allows for you to positively impact other people's lives. To help a group of people find success, whether they have or haven't before, you're all working together for a common goal. ... There's a love for helping other people that exists for me, and not playing anymore, if that's what it's to be, coaching or being in the front office, or being in a role where you can positively impact others and work to reach a common goal, that's exciting to me." reported recently that Jackson has discussed the vacancy with Dunleavy and hasn't fully ruled out a sit-down with Knicks fan favorite Mark Jackson, who has rejoined ESPN as a broadcaster after his dismissal by the Warriors. Yet sources maintain that Phil Jackson wants to hire a young coach he can mold and mentor and who won't be put off by his hands-on presence early on.

Rambis, who worked as an assistant to the ousted Mike D'Antoni with the Lakers last season, and current D-League developmental coach Luke Walton of the L.A. D-Fenders are on Jackson's short list as well. But sources say Rambis and Walton are more likely regarded as potential assistants for the eventual coach, with another of Jackson's former players with head-coaching experience -- Bill Cartwright -- having already received an interview for what was presumed to be a spot on Kerr's bench.

Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach Tyronn Lue, who played briefly under Jackson as a Laker and has interviewed for the Cleveland Cavaliers' coaching vacancy, has also been mentioned repeatedly as a name on Jackson's radar.

Jackson confirmed last week that the Knicks were convinced they were on the brink of a deal with Kerr when Stan Van Gundy unexpectedly took the Detroit Pistons' offer to serve as their coach and team president. That led to Golden State making a renewed pitch to Kerr, which ultimately trumped New York's offer.

Related Video