Jackson, Williams on Walsh's list; Van Gundy takes self out of running
NEW YORK -- Mark Jackson and Herb Williams are on Donnie Walsh's list, and Jeff Van Gundy doesn't want to be.
Walsh declined to reveal his other candidates to replace Isiah Thomas as New York Knicks coach and won't rush his search -- even though waiting cost him a shot at Scott Skiles.
The Chicago Bulls are the only other team with a coaching vacancy, though more could open during the postseason. Walsh, who has been the Knicks president nearly three weeks, is still compiling the names of candidates he wants to talk to and won't speed through the process.
"You always want to get your coach in place, but I don't think you can panic because you're afraid of what other teams are going to do and all that," Walsh said Tuesday on a conference call. "I think you've just got to make sure you get the right guy."
He never had much chance to find out if that could have been Skiles. By the time Walsh fired Thomas late Friday afternoon, Skiles was close to a deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, who announced his hiring Monday.
"He would've been one of the guys that I would have tried to get into lengthy conversation," Walsh said. "I did at some point talk to Scott and I could tell that he was right down the road and I just couldn't rush into it that fast. And I just could tell that he had an offer that he was fairly close to taking and I just didn't, I just couldn't, react as fast as perhaps I had to because of the situation he was in with Milwaukee."
Skiles may not have been the favorite, anyway. Walsh said he doesn't really have one, though much of the speculation has focused on Jackson, especially since Walsh had such praise for him during the conference call to announce Thomas' removal.
Walsh reiterated that Jackson will get an interview but stopped short of calling the New York product and former Knicks guard his top -- or only -- choice.
"I guess you don't know that until you sit down and the two of you talk together," Walsh said. "Then you find out how far along you are as far as those kinds of descriptions are concerned. He's a guy I'm interested in enough to want to sit down and talk to."
Jackson, an analyst for ABC and ESPN, has no coaching experience. But he could overcome that with his interview, as Walsh said Larry Bird did when they discussed the Indiana Pacers job in 1997.
"I thought he was tremendously prepared for it," Walsh said.
Van Gundy coached the Knicks for parts of seven seasons, leading them to the 1999 NBA Finals, and would be a popular hire in New York. He works on the same announcing team with Jackson.
"I called Jeff Van Gundy and he told me he's not a candidate right now for a coaching job," Walsh said. "I thought that if he was coaching that he's certainly a guy you should talk to. He's let me know that for his own reasons he doesn't think he'll be coaching for a while, so that's where it is."
Walsh said he may consider asking permission to speak with assistants whose teams are in the playoffs, possibly Boston's Tom Thibodeau, who worked here under Van Gundy. One assistant who will get an opportunity is Williams, who has been with the Knicks in that role since 2001, also serving 44 games as an interim head coach.
He met with Walsh on Monday to see what his role is now that Thomas is gone -- and if there could be one waiting for him in the future.
"In the course of the meeting I asked him if we wanted to be a candidate for the head coaching job and he said he did," Walsh said. "So we discussed it a little bit and I said, 'Listen, we'll continue this, but I just wanted to know if you wanted to be included.' And he said he did."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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