Kerr on the Knicks

I’m intrigued by the prospect of Steve Kerr becoming the next coach of the Knicks and the Knicks seem to be as well as it’s rumored that they are hoping to get him to agree to take the job as soon as the first round of the playoffs is over (perhaps in an attempt to keep him from having the opportunity to consider other jobs that, you know, may be better, as the great Zach Lowe pointed out yesterday on Grantland).

I think Kerr’s going to take the job and, because of that, I’m already curious about what he thinks of the team and how it’s performed over the past few seasons (not to mention where he stands on Carmelo Anthony and what he thinks about the City of New York). Kerr isn’t saying much about the Knicks now, of course. But I figured he’s discussed them during his regular appearances on Bill Simmons’ podcast over the last few years and I was right. What he’s said isn’t particularly controversial or exciting but it’s as close to an opinion on the Knicks as you’re going to get from Kerr at the moment.

Kerr’s been appearing on the BS Report for years but I stopped in November 2012 because well, I have a job and you (hopefully) have a job (if not, assuming you want one, I’m sure you’ll find one soon) and really, four-plus hours of old Bill Simmons podcasts is a lot for anyone to handle. Oh, and they stopped working properly in my browser when I went farther back. Someone should tell the ol’ Sports Guy about that. 

Here we go:

November 19, 2013

  • Discussing teams struggling to start the season (the Knicks were 3-6 at the time and had lost Tyson Chandler to a broken leg that would keep him out six-plus weeks; the Knicks wouldn’t really ever recover): “I’m kind of willing to give the Knicks a pass because unless they have Tyson Chandler they can’t guard anybody and it’s hard, you can’t evaluate the Knicks without Chandler. When he’s there, they’re actually pretty good. And they had JR Smith suspended the first five games which threw off their whole rotation. I think we should give the Knicks a little bit of a pass but yeah, they’re a mess right now, they can’t figure out who they are and what they want to do”
  • In response to Simmons describing Jabari Parker as a cross between Carmelo Anthony and Rudy Gay and calling Parker “Carmelo Anthony if Carmelo Anthony was fun to play with”: “yeah, I think that’s a great call” (it didn’t seem like Kerr was concurring that Anthony’s no fun to play with, only that Parker’s game is similar to Melo’s, but maybe he was)

April 5, 2013

  • Discussing a ten-game Knicks winning streak and in response to Simmons’ statement that “Carmelo is really rounding into form”: “He’s got ninety points in the last two games (Melo had just hung 50 on a Heat team that was resting LBJ and Wade and 40 on the Hawks as part of a stretch where he scored 30+ seven straight games). That’s ridiculous.” Simmons: “And in a series, he could be the best guy in a series, which is the reason you trade for him in the first place” Kerr: “Right. Well when they were great early in the year he was at the four, they had the floor spaced and they were shooting the lights out from three and they took a dip when they had the injuries on the front line and they have so many old guys who went down. Kidd wore down. And when I watched them like a month ago when they were really in a funk the ball just stopped all the time and I watched some of the game last night and it seemed like the ball was moving again, they’ve got good spacing, good three point shooting. Defensively I just don’t know, I thought Rasheed was actually kind of a key to that team early in the season, he’s so good even at whatever age he is now so I think they are going to miss him but they’re an intriguing team and they’ve got a shot to absolutely make a run in the East. I don’t think they can beat Miami but I think they could get to the Conference Finals…I think [the Knicks] could give Miami a hard time but not beat them” 

January 15, 2013

  • Discussing who he likes in the East other than the Heat: and in response to Simmons calling the Knicks “the rabbit” and “having a gimmick” (they were 24-13 at the time, those were the fucking days): “I like the Knicks, I like Indiana…[the Knicks] are a team that’s dependent on the three as you talked about, but what they really start with, what their offense begins with, is Felton’s penetration, it’s the court spread, it’s the Phoenix offense from five, six years ago with Nash running it and instead of Amar’e Stoudemire rolling to the rim you’ve got Tyson Chandler and you’ve got shooters all over the place. If you don’t have the penetration then nothing, you don’t get the chain reaction of all the defensive rotations that come with guarding that penetration. And so Felton’s missed eight or nine games in a row, they’ve lost like five or six of them, they’re not right right now. And not that I’m saying Ray Felton is the savior by any means (I swear he chuckles here) but I do think that he’s sort of the key to what begins their offensive sequence in the halfcourt. I think when he gets back we’ll have a better picture of where they really are.”
  • Simmons says “I do think that was a big moment for Carmelo, that six for 26 game and that thing with KG (that’s the infamous honey nut cheerios incident), you know he was having this unassailable MVP campaign of a season…he was playing great, he was competing hard on both ends…I think everybody agreed that he was having a career year in a lot of different ways and then the old Carmelo kind of showed up in that game.” Kerr’s response: “It’s such a long season and that’s the thing that I’ve learned over the years is that it’s always dangerous to make any kind of proclamations in January…the key is you have to be healthy down the stretch and for the Knicks, will they have Rasheed and Camby healthy, who knows, but those guys are important and Kurt Thomas, certain matchups, they’re going to need a guy like Thomas. But if they’re healthy, I like the way they play and I love Tyson Chandler, I think he’s fantastic and I think he keeps them at that elite level.”

November 13, 2012

  • On whether he bought that Phil Jackson wanted to coach the Lakers prior to Mike D’Antoni getting the job: “oh yeah, I think he did. He didn’t want to coach the Sacramento Kings or the Detroit Pistons but when this became available, I think there’s no doubt he wanted to coach the Lakers.”
  • Simmons: “Because I had always heard, and I even said this, that he was really intrigued by the Knicks last summer but Dolan just shut that down because Dolan doesn’t want, he’s one of those guys that doesn’t want someone who’s going to get more of the attention than he is.” Kerr: “[laughs] right…I think the thing with Phil is that he’s retired a couple of times and come back twice…and as much as Phil likes to talk about the other things that he’s interested in in life, and he is, he’s got a lot of interests…but when it comes down to it the guy is a basketball junkie…he loves the NBA and I think it’s never going to leave his system entirely…I think he wanted to do it”
  • On the Bulls’ defense when he was playing for Jackson: “What he loved was having a big defensive center, we never had a dominant offensive center but we always had big guys, you think about Bill Cartwright or Luc Longley, we always had guys who could anchor the lane.”
  • On how fast the Lakers could have learned the triangle if Jackson had taken the job and the triangle generally: “very quickly….you can tweak the triangle and run pick-and-roll very easily out of the triangle if that’s what you choose”
  • Discussing how Mike D’Antoni will handle coaching the Lakers: “the other helpful thing for Mike is that he’s just been in the pressure cooker in New York for the last three-and-a-half years and it can’t be any worse than that in terms of the daily scrutiny.”

So there you have it. Steve Kerr: lover of Tyson Chandler, fan of ball movement, unclear on Carmelo Anthony, close with Phil Jackson, thinks the triangle can be easily learned and knows New York is an incredibly difficult place to play. 

What shines through when you listen to Kerr speak, whether it’s on the BS Report or on TNT or anywhere else is that he’s smart and level-headed and has spent a lot of time around great basketball players, great basketball teams and great basketball coaches. He might not have any coaching experience but he’s won five rings, played for the two best coaches of the modern era, ran the Suns for three years and has been watching from the sideline as a broadcaster for the last four-plus. All that, plus he’s got a close relationship with the Knicks’ president, setting up the kind of simpatico relationship between the coach and front office decisionmaker that the best organizations have. 

I hope he’s the next head coach of the Knicks.