Has aloof Phil Jackson painted himself into a corner for coaching search?

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Knicks president Phil Jackson talks with reporters during a news conference Monday. He had just fired coach Derek Fisher. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

More than a few people are happy to see Phil Jackson getting intimately acquainted with failure.

The former Bulls and Lakers coach won 11 titles, which is reason enough in the NBA for rampant envy and dislike. But he didn’t help himself with an aloof attitude and a bearing that seemed to indicate that Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant couldn’t have done it without him.

Jackson, the president of the Knicks since March 2014, now finds himself overseeing a struggling franchise. He fired coach Derek Fisher on Monday, then tweeted a tract about what he’s looking for in the next coach. He probably lost a lot of people in the fourth sentence, when he mentioned humanistic psychology.

Speaking of probing the mind, I’ve always wondered whether Jackson’s imperiousness might be a manifestation of shyness. Whatever you want to call it, it has kept him from building the kind of network most coaches build. It will be interesting to see if the lack of relationships will affect how he conducts his coaching search and whom he hires.

He has been loyal to the people (and a triangle offense) he has gotten to know. Fisher, a former player of his in Los Angeles, was one of them, until the losing in New York became untenable. Jackson is loyal to Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis, who was an assistant general manager when Jackson arrived in Los Angeles in 1999. He is loyal to Jim Cleamons, who has been with Jackson as an assistant coach since 1989, except for several years when Jackson was out of the league.

Hiring people you know and trust is nothing new in the NBA. But when the pool of people you know and trust is the size of a bathtub, it limits your options. And it works both ways: If people don’t know or trust you, your options are limited.

It’s the Knicks, and it’s a very attractive job. Jackson will find somebody. Here’s guessing he finds someone he knows really, really well.


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