Steve Kerr finally coached at Madison Square Garden Saturday night, about three months later than Phil Jackson envisioned or hoped.
Kerr was Jackson's first choice to coach the Knicks, and he was close to taking the job. But when the Warriors' position opened and they pursued him, he couldn't pass on the opportunity.
Few could blame him or say he didn't make the right decision. The Warriors moved to 31 games over .500 and the Knicks dropped to 31 games under with a 106-92 loss to Golden State.
Kerr said the hardest part of picking the Warriors was turning down Jackson.
"It was difficult because I'm very, very close with him and I feel like I'm indebted to him for much of what's transpired in my career," he said. "But from the other side of things, it was just personal, family side.
"It was a lot easier to stay close to home, literally two miles from my daughter, who goes to Berkeley, and I got a team that has a lot of talent and a lot of great guys, so it was a good choice."
Kerr, who played for Jackson with the Bulls, said he and his old coach have exchanged emails during the season and did so again Saturday. They planned to speak at the game. But Kerr didn't offer an opinion on the Knicks (10-41) or how Jackson is handling this situation.
"Obviously, this is a work in progress," he said. "It's going to take some time, and he knew that when he took the job. Beyond that, honestly, I haven't really paid much attention to it."
Kerr said he is "comfortable" with his decision and that "it was just a better situation." Actually, it couldn't have worked out any better for him.
Not only is he close to home, he's coaching the best backcourt in the league in dynamic All-Stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and arguably the NBA's deepest team. The Warriors (40-9) have the best record in the Western Conference and the second-best record in the NBA behind the Hawks (42-9).
"I've slept good," Kerr said.
Derek Fisher probably can't say the same thing. It's been a historically bad season for the Knicks, one that has included a franchise-worst 16-game losing streak. Fisher hasn't looked as comfortable in his new role, but he also wasn't blessed with a roster like Kerr's.
Jackson set unrealistic expectations on the Knicks this season, saying they would be a playoff team. Now they're building for the future, hoping to improve their talent and develop the kind of team and chemistry that Golden State has.
"Playing against and watching the Warriors last year and watching them this year, there's more ball movement," Fisher said. "There's more flow in terms of their offense, multiple passes, multiple guys involved. And I think that's what all coaches are striving for."
"But they seem to have a team that's engaged in what they try to do. They won a lot of games a season ago and they're coming back this year to take another step forward, and it looks like they're doing that so far."
Kerr replaced Mark Jackson, who was fired after last season. Kerr said he hasn't changed the Warriors defensively because they already were solid on that end. He has altered the offense to fit his style, stealing from some past coaches, including Phil Jackson.
Fisher mostly has run the triangle, but he has added some other sets. Kerr was asked if Jackson would have given him the freedom to run what he wanted if he took the job.
"Yeah, my sense was I going to coach," Kerr said. "We didn't really get into specifics of that. I think as a coach, you have to adapt to your personnel. First of all, you have to have the available talent to be able to run anything that's effective, and then once you do, you have to pick out what's going to be effective for that particular talent. That's what we're trying to do.
"We've implemented a lot of different things that I've gotten from a lot of different people, including Phil and including Gregg Popovich, including Mike D'Antoni and Jerry Sloan. It's sort of a hodgepodge that we're trying to form into our system."
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