Could Mark Jackson bolt from Warriors to the Knicks?

Warriors look to finish road trip 4-2 with win over Celtics

Could Mark Jackson bolt from Warriors to the Knicks?
March 5, 2014, 1:00 pm
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Even if Jackson were in a hurry to get out of his contract and take another job, he'd have to be intoxicated by nostalgia or a special kind of insane to even consider coaching these Knicks, under this ownership group.
Monte Poole

The Knicks selected Mark Jackson with the 18th pick in the 1987 NBA Draft, and he took home Rookie of the Year honors in 1988. (AP)

Programming note: Warriors-Celtics coverage tips off Wednesday at 4 p.m. with Warriors Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area

The Internet jackals and East Coast airwaves are abuzz with speculation about the next coach of the New York Knicks, and one name that stays in the conversation is Warriors coach Mark Jackson.

Jackson grew up in New York and is quick to remind everyone. He's a former Knicks point guard and team leader. He was a very visible object of affection at Madison Square Garden last week, when the Warriors routed the reeling Knicks.

Considering Jackson's backstory and the varying degrees of heat he has felt this season, it's a spicy topic for fans and media – and certainly an intriguing fantasy for Knicks ownership and management. It makes for juicy reading in the New York tabloids.

The reality, however, is that Jackson is under contract through 2015. After a stirring postseason run last spring, the Warriors picked up the one-year option to his original three-year deal.

Though Jackson accepted those terms, he surely would have liked a multi-year extension and raise. That he wanted more and didn't immediately get it could lead to the belief he'd be willing to leave.

Willing, however, is not the same as ready, much less eager. And even if Jackson were in a hurry to get out of his contract and take another job, he'd have to be intoxicated by nostalgia or a special kind of insane to even consider coaching these Knicks, under this ownership group.

Warriors CEO Joe Laob is incessantly driven, with boundless ambition. He wants it all, and is willing to do his part to achieve it. His three-plus years atop the organizational chart have had many more hits than misses. He challenges Jackson and everybody else in the building, which is the right of the owner.

[FAST FORWARD: One more hurdle for Warriors to clear in Boston]

Meanwhile, in New York, the Dolans run a franchise mired in turbulence, over a team with one of the bleakest futures in the NBA. Carmelo Anthony is a star, a prolific scorer, who has gone 10 seasons without evidence of making his teammates better. Salaries are out of line. The next first-round pick is owed to the Nuggets. There is no identifiable core around which to build.

When current coach Mike Woodson is fired, as he surely will be, the next coach would be wise to wonder why his fate will be any better. Woodson, who replaced fired Mike D'Antoni, is failing with a flawed roster assembled by the clueless management that re-signed troubled guard J.R. Smith to a four-year extension worth $24 million last summer.

Why on God's green earth would Jackson, no matter how much he loves the Big Apple, want any part of that? Why would Jeff Van Gundy or Tom Thibodeau, two other names being tossed about, invite this upon themselves?

Jackson is a New York native who has planted himself, quite firmly, in California. His church is in Southern California, his job in Oakland. And, I believe, his heart is with these Warriors.

While Jackson undoubtedly enjoyed his visit to New York last week, as he does every year, I strongly suspect he'd rather not stay.

I'm sure he was touched by the video tribute, featuring clips of his Knicks career, on the Garden screen last week, he realizes coaching in 2014 is a different beast than playing in 1990.

There was a time when Jackson wanted to coach the Knicks. He would have taken the job in 2008, after Isiah Thomas' disastrous term on the sideline. The Knicks instead hired D'Antoni. Jackson moved on to ABC/ESPN, serving as a game analyst.

That's where he was when Lacob persuaded him to take over the Warriors in June 2011. There were skeptics then. There are skeptics still.

But Jackson enters Wednesday's game at Boston five games over .500 (107-102) as Warriors coach, making him the first since Al Attles to preside over more wins than losses. Moreover, Jackson is a better coach now than he was two years ago.

Though Jackson is not pleased with everything his bosses say and do – that's not unusual in professional sports – he understands he's in a good place with the potential to be great.

While that doesn't mean he wouldn't consider taking another job at some point, now is not that time. And, for crying out loud, these woebegone Knicks of today most certainly are not that team.

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