Phil Jackson knew everything. Just read his volume of books and he’ll let you know it.
Jackson’s “11 Rings’’ arrogance became his undoing in New York. That is why you cherish this exhaustive coaching search being conducted by the first-year managerial tandem of president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry.
The number is up to 10 interviewed candidates now — young NBA assistants James Borrego and Juwan Howard capping it off over the weekend.
The Mills-Perry Research and Development Tour started in New York, crossed the country to Los Angeles, returned to New York, veered to Europe and back again to the Big Apple for more talks.
Mills and Perry don’t pretend to know everything. Their search has become a leave-no-stone-unturned process, interviewing everyone from TNT’s Kenny Smith to new free agent Mike Budenholzer.
Perhaps candidates such as Smith, Howard and Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga, still coaching in the NBA playoffs, have no chance. But it was productive to pick their brains about the Knicks’ roster and hear their visions on the use of the young prospects.
Indications are Budenholzer, David Fizdale and David Blatt, who helped himself in his interview, have emerged as the top three candidates.
Surprisingly, Mark Jackson’s candidacy hasn’t gained much traction. It’s noteworthy no other club with a vacancy interviewed Jackson, whose Golden State axing in 2014 left a sourness.
It is believed one concern is the coaching staff Jackson might construct. Jackson has been out of the coaching loop four years and warred with two of his Warriors assistants, Brian Scalabrine and Darren Erman, now flourishing as defensive coordinator in New Orleans.
If Jackson is a second-tier candidate, Mills/Perry may keep it simple and hire Budenholzer, a defensive-minded, proven winner out of the San Antonio system who wants to be here. Milwaukee, eliminated Saturday night by Boston, could leap into the Budenholzer mix. Bucks interim coach Joe Prunty is not expected to be next season’s coach.
One NBA source predicts Milwaukee will conduct “a national search.’’
The Knicks have conducted an international search and it’s been a blessed opportunity for Mills, who wasn’t allowed to embark on an earnest mission of intelligence under Jackson.
At an April 12 press conference, Mills talked about “an intellectual curiosity” among NBA front offices. He’s consulted with other team executives such as Golden State’s esteemed Bob Myers on “what it takes to be a coach in the NBA’’ regarding candidates “who can absorb all of the things different about today’s game.”
Mills listed the differences: “The use of analytics, the significance of the physical training and performance staff, how you incorporate player development into a holistic approach to coach a team.”
Perhaps it’s a lot of rhetoric, but more relevant rhetoric than triangle rhetoric.
The Jackson/Mills tandem was a forced marriage and bad timing by owner James Dolan, who plays the guitar better than he evaluates whether an offensive system is played out.
Meanwhile, Mills/Perry have become basketball’s Frick and Frack.
“We work very closely together,’’ Mills said. “We work in tandem and I give Scott the flexibility of [doing] what he thinks is right.’’
In those two Zen Master coaching searches, Mills was restricted. After Jackson’s top choice Steve Kerr reneged, Jackson spoke only to Derek Fisher and made the hire.
On his next try, Jackson reached out to an uninterested Luke Walton. After his vision of Kurt Rambis was soundly rebuffed, Jackson interviewed Blatt. The former Cavaliers coach with a stunning European résumé was Mills’ pick.
Jackson also spoke to Frank Vogel, then Jeff Hornacek, whom he had never formally met. After a six-hour interview, Hornacek was the chosen one to run a partial triangle offense despite no triangle experience.
Neither 2014 nor 2016 can be classified as thorough searches. Mills/Perry realize they need to hit a home run on this and their lottery pick. Mills/Perry want this hire to peak in “three to five years” when the Knicks hope to be ready to compete for a title.
While Jackson stopped listening and learning, Mills and Perry are always seeking information. That’s why Perry, whose father played for the Steelers, attends their training camp every summer to glean from their winning culture. Perry is close to Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
Mills and Perry don’t write books, but they are authoring one vast coaching search.