Williams keeps working, evaluates players

Updated: May 17, 2005, 3:52 PM ET
Associated Press

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Herb Williams pulled up to the private parking lot at the New York Knicks' practice facility on Tuesday, pulled out his pass and watched the gate go up.

For another day, at least, he was still the head coach.

"My keys still work in my office, so right now I'm feeling pretty good," Williams said. "When I come up to the gate and flash my pass and it doesn't open the gate ... "

Williams never finished that thought, a fitting reflection of the state of limbo the Knicks find themselves in while awaiting word from Phil Jackson on whether he wants to coach next season -- and whether he'd want to coach the Knicks.

Team president Isiah Thomas is known to have met with Jackson at least once. Jackson said Saturday he it could be until mid-June before he decides whether he'll return to the sidelines.

Williams led the Knicks to a 16-27 record as their interim coach following the midseason resignation of Lenny Wilkens, and Thomas in April called him the "frontrunner" to be the head coach when training camp opens in October.

Thomas is also reportedly interested in Pistons coach Larry Brown and San Antonio assistant P.J. Carlesimo, both of whom are currently coaching in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Williams said he has not received any status update recently from Thomas.

While he waits, Williams reports to work five days a week and reviews videotape of draft prospects, keeps in touch with players and plots offensive and defensive schemes for a team he may or may not coach.

Thomas has not commented publicly on the coaching search in nearly two weeks.

"He still comes in, he smiles, and I still have a job," Williams said. "He hasn't told me anything different so far.

"One thing he's always said is he's going to exhaust all the possibilities, so when I see the names in the paper and the different things that are going on, I just figure he's taking a look at somebody else, and that's part of the process," Williams said.

Williams attended a coaching clinic in Seattle last week and spoke with longtime Jackson assistant Tex Winter, but said he received no insight from Winter, an expert on the triangle offense, regarding Jackson's plans.

The Lakers and Knicks have been portrayed as the frontrunners in the Jackson sweepstakes, although the Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers are considered to be in the mix as well.

"I think Phil is probably, in my opinion, one of the best coaches out there, and I think a lot of people are taking a long, hard look at him because the man does have nine championships," Williams said.

"I think right now he's putting feelers out there and seeing what's going on. I mean, if he wanted to make a decision I think he could, but for some reason he's not doing that."

Jackson's agent, Todd Musburger, did not return a call seeking comment.

Jackson, at an appearance in Beverly Hills on Saturday, said the Lakers' current roster was "unappealing" and hampered by salary cap constraints.

Los Angeles owner Jerry Buss said he has not offered the team's coaching position to anyone, although his leading candidate is Jackson -- the man who also has a personal relationship with Buss' daughter, Jeannie.

The Los Angeles Times, citing anonymous sources, reported Tuesday that Jackson has spoken briefly on the phone recently with Kobe Bryant as the first step in a possible reconciliation between the two. In his book published last fall, Jackson described Bryant as uncoachable.

The Times said Jackson would like to have a sit-down meeting with the seven-time All-Star before taking the next step in his decision-making process.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press