As Phil Jackson’s possible return to the Lakers remains unresolved, Knicks GM Isiah Thomas could always return to a list of coaching candidates that might include P.J. Carelismo, Flip Saunders, Brian Hill and current coach Herb Williams. The New York Times’ William Rhoden proposes a wider talent pool, however, suggesting that “the best man for the Knicks might actually be a woman.”
Anne Donovan will be in the Knicks’ house today. If I were Isiah Thomas, I would pay a visit when Donovan’s Seattle Storm plays the Liberty in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden. Thomas, the Knicks’ president for basketball operations, should take time out from his cat-and-mouse game with Phil Jackson to discuss the Knicks’ coaching vacancy with Donovan. Leave no stone unturned, no corner unexplored in pursuit of the best fit.
Thomas said he was open to the idea, and Donovan (above), who, like Thomas, is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said she would listen.
Donovan, one of the most dominating players of her era, was a member of three United States Olympic teams and led Old Dominion to a national title as a freshman in 1980.
After coaching in college and in the American Basketball League, she became the head coach of the Charlotte Sting in 2001 and guided it to the W.N.B.A. final in 2001. Last season, Donovan led the Seattle Storm to the championship, becoming the first female head coach to capture a W.N.B.A. title.
“There haven’t been that many women who have been given the opportunity or who management has stuck by,” Donovan said. “There have been some good women who’ve come through, but if you look at overall numbers – how many men have coached in the W.N.B.A. and how many women – I’m sure the men outnumber the women.”
The Knicks need a better idea. Thomas said he thought that Pat Summitt, the legendary Tennessee coach, would make an excellent N.B.A. coach. “If Pat was younger in her career, she definitely could come in and have a positive effect,” Thomas said. “A coach like Pat Summitt right now in the N.B.A., she’d be a little too tough for these guys. A lot of the stuff the men take as coaches, she wouldn’t put up with.”
A historic gender breakthrough won’t happen on Thomas’s watch: in the N.B.A., survival trumps pioneering. For now, Thomas has to find a way to save his own neck next season, and that means finding a way to bring a star player – Kevin Garnett – and a star coach – Jackson – to New York by any means possible.
The Knicks could do a lot worse than Anne Donovan – and they have. The organization has not won an N.B.A. title in 32 years, so a whole lot of folks have failed – some of the greatest names in the business: Hubie Brown, Rick Pitino, Pat Riley, Don Nelson, Jeff Van Gundy and Lenny Wilkens.
Thomas predicted that a woman would be coaching in the N.B.A. within five seasons. That would be great, but it’s a stretch.
“It’s nice to have people like Isiah who know the women’s games and have respect for the women’s game,” Donovan said. “But there’s a lot of management in the N.B.A. that doesn’t know the history of our game or that there are great coaches in our game. Their comfort level is hiring what they know – which is why we’ve seen a lot of N.B.A. guys come into the W.N.B.A.”
In Sacramento, Rick Adelman of the recently eliminated Kings, expressed his skepticism to the Bee’s Martin McNeal that he’ll soon be losing his job to Phil Jackson.
Kings coach Rick Adelman said Friday he would be disappointed to find out the Maloofs had indeed contacted Jackson’s representative, Todd Musburger.
“The Maloofs have treated me so good and been so loyal to me,” said Adelman, who has coached the Kings since 1998, “that if that did happen, well, I have been here seven years, and I’d be surprised. I think I deserve a little better than that. I can’t control what they want to do.
“I haven’t heard anything from anybody in the organization, so I’ll assume I’m still the coach until I do. I’m still skeptical of the source of information, but if it happened, I’m disappointed. I haven’t talked to (Kings president) Geoff (Petrie, who underwent an angioplasty Wednesday night) because he’s trying to recover. But whenever there is something to talk about, he usually gets in contact with me.”
Adelman jokingly questioned whether Jackson, who won nine total NBA titles with the likes of Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen with Chicago and Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant with the Lakers, would want to come to the Kings.
“In the past,” Adelman said, “there’s always had to be two superstars for Phil to come.”