NEW YORK — Phil Jackson made his first major move as Knicks president Monday, firing Mike Woodson and his entire staff.
Steve Kerr, the leading candidate to succeed Woodson, is waiting for Jackson’s call. “When the time comes, I’ll be interested,” Kerr told ESPN Chicago radio Monday.
Jackson is expected to hire someone who has a complete understanding of the triangle offense, which helped him win 11 titles as a coach.
Kerr, a current TNT analyst and former Suns general manager, won three championships playing under Jackson with the Bulls and wants to get into coaching. The two have remained close. Kerr said he attended the wedding of Jackson’s daughter a few years ago.
“I do anticipate talking with Phil Jackson at some point,” he said on Sirius XM NBA Radio. “I feel bad for Mike. I think he’s done an excellent job in New York, but between the struggles of the team this year and the new regime with Phil Jackson, I think this was — and I don’t think I’m the only one saying this — I think the writing was sort of on the wall the last couple of months. And now here we are.”
Other candidates who could join the team in some capacity include Ron Harper, Kurt Rambis, Jim Cleamons, Frank Hamblen, Derek Fisher and Bill Cartwright. All played or coached under Jackson.
Citing a need for change, Jackson made the move five days after the Knicks finished 37-45 and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years.
Woodson, who brought a 72-34 record as Knicks coach into this season, was 109-79 in two-plus seasons. His .580 winning percentage is third in club history behind Pat Riley (.680) and Jeff Van Gundy (.590).
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mike Woodson and his entire staff,” Jackson said in a statement. “The coaches and players on this team had an extremely difficult 2013-14 season, and blame should not be put on one individual. But the time has come for change throughout the franchise as we start the journey to assess and build this team for next season and beyond.”
The Knicks went 54-28 in 2012-13, took the division title for the first time since 1994 and won a playoff series for the first time in 13 years. Woodson’s option for 2014-15 was picked up in September, but he faced a difficult situation this season.
General manager Glen Grunwald, one of Woodson’s biggest supporters, was fired days before training camp began. Despite the departures of key veterans and leaders, including Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Kurt Thomas and Steve Novak, expectations were high. The Knicks believed they were championship contenders. But they started 3-13 and were a season-worst 21-40 on March 3.
Injuries were a factor as six of the Knicks’ top 10 players missed at least 16 games each. Tyson Chandler was sidelined for 20 games after breaking his leg in the fourth game of the season.
The Knicks were plagued by a lack of chemistry, slow starts, poor execution late in games and repeated defensive breakdowns. They were 7-12 in games decided by four or fewer points and lost nine times after having leads in double figures.
The Knicks made a late push, winning 16 of their last 21, and free-agent-to-be Carmelo Anthony supported Woodson after the season ended, but it wasn’t enough to save his job.
“You can point the fingers in a lot of directions,” Woodson said after the Knicks were officially eliminated. “At the end of the day, I’m the coach and I didn’t get it done. It’s just that simple.”
Once Jackson was named president March 18, it was expected that he would shake up things and look to bring in his own guys. The only surprise Monday was that former Knick and longtime assistant Herb Williams, who has been on the staff for 13 years, was fired. Jim Todd, LaSalle Thompson, Jerry Dunn, Darrell Walker and Dave Hopla also were let go.
Woodson, a 1980 first-round pick by the Knicks, replaced Mike D’Antoni on March 14, 2012, and immediately stressed defense and holding players accountable. The Knicks finished that season 18-6 under Woodson and made their second straight playoff appearance.
The following season, they reached the Eastern Conference semifinals, losing to Indiana in six games. The Knicks thought they were building something sustainable. Now it’s up to Jackson to do that.
“Everyone in this franchise owes a great deal of gratitude to what Mike and his staff have done,” Jackson said. “We wish him the best.”
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