While Mike D’Antoni is trying to teach everyone with the New York Knicks how to pronounce his name, the Suns are pressing forward to come up with the name that will replace him.
NBA sources said that longtime NBA point guard and ABC broadcaster Mark Jackson, who confirmed his interest in the job, will get one of the first interviews with Suns general manager Steve Kerr when that process starts next week.
“It’s a great job. That team is ready to win right now,” Jackson told the Tribune Monday. “It’s very intriguing. Anyone who got that job would consider himself lucky.”
Of the eight teams still playing in the postseason, Kerr said he’s already asked three general managers for permission to speak with staff members.
That leaves names like Kurt Rambis and Brian Shaw in Los Angeles, Tom Thibodeau in Boston, ex-Suns head coach Paul Westphal in Dallas and two former Suns players, Tyrone Corbin and Jeff Hornacek of Utah, as possibilities.
Hornacek, who lives in Paradise Valley, has already made it clear that he wants to be considered.
As reported earlier, the Suns are expected to talk to ex-Sun and veteran NBA coach Paul Silas, most likely about an assistant coaching position to work with the big men — Shaquille O’Neal, Amaré Stoudemire, Boris Diaw — something the team lacked after Marc Iavaroni left for the head coaching job in Memphis.
Silas, who will be 65 in July, was born in Prescott and played with the Suns (1970-74) before winning three NBA titles (1974 and 1976 in Boston and 1979 in Seattle) and serving as a head coach in San Diego (1980-83), Charlotte (1999-2003) and Cleveland (2003-05). He returned to the Suns as an assistant from 1995-97.
“I still have the passion for coaching and I’m always interested in staying involved,” said Silas, who told the Tribune he has yet to be contacted. “Phoenix is where it started for me.”
Silas said he’d relish the opportunity to work with Stoudemire, who he believes he can be a strong defender.
“You see the rebounds and the blocked shots and you know it’s just a matter of putting the emphasis on it,” he said. “You have that, and the desire, and you’ll get there.”
Meanwhile, D’Antoni — who was introduced as “Mike Dantonio” by Knicks president Donnie Walsh at his introductory press conference Tuesday — hasn’t made any friends in Chicago.
Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told the Chicago Tribune he was disappointed that D’Antoni “misled” him into thinking he was seriously considering the Bulls — who appeared to be a better fit for his style, roster-wise — and wasn’t interested in joining the Knicks.
“I’m disappointed in him,” Reinsdorf said. “He chose to go to New York knowing there was a good chance we would make him an offer. If he had really wanted to be in Chicago, he would’ve waited. Instead, he misled us. It’s not the end of the world, but it is somewhat rude.”
Sources close to D’Antoni told the Tribune he was already leaning heavily toward the Knicks when Reinsdorf, his neighbor in Paradise Valley, asked for a meeting last Friday. The nearly three-hour meeting did nothing but confirm his feelings, and that he and his wife made the decision to sign with New York shortly after the meeting ended.
There figures to be a roster makeover in New York, and media speculation is already swirling about a Knicks-Suns deal. One paper had the Knicks trying to coax Steve Nash to Manhattan — where he lives in the summer — while another had D’Antoni trying to dump high-priced guard Stephon Marbury while bringing in favorites Leandro Barbosa and Diaw.
Kerr responded to those reports on XTRA (910 AM) (correction: The story originally said KTAR radio) with tongue firmly in cheek.
“I think it makes sense to move Amaré and Steve for Marbury and Eddy Curry,” Kerr said. “Come on. Since Mike is now the coach of the Knicks, does he just get to take all of our guys, too? I don’t think it works that way.”
Kerr said he was pleased with Diaw’s performance in the playoffs and is looking forward to the new coaching staff working with Diaw, Barbosa and Stoudemire.
“If we come back next year with our core, which we should, add the 15th pick (in next month’s draft) and a couple of free agents, then I expect to be one of the top teams in the NBA, which we were this year,” he said.
“If you watch the Spurs series, we weren’t that far off. Maybe we just need more time together.”