Derek Fisher is out. Kurt Rambis is in. At least that'll be the case for the Knicks' head coaching situation for the rest of the season.
And while Rambis is a long-time confidant of Phil Jackson and a well known teacher, preacher, and practicer of the triangle offense, his 54-145 record as a head coach in two and a half NBA seasons doesn't make his chances of sticking around as the main man for too long. Only time will tell, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of being a head coach under the bright lights in the Big Apple.
Nevertheless, even assuming Rambis himself will be a candidate to keep the position next, here's a reasonable look at who else Phil Jackson could consider, given his preferences.
Like Rambis, Shaw is another unsuccessful NBA head coach who has branched off from Jackson's coaching tree following time as an assistant.
Shaw was long considered Jackson's right hand man and star pupil. Though he may have had a future in Los Angeles succeeding Jackson, he followed a path to Denver. It was there where things went south for him. Shaw didn't have the best looking roster, but those around him thought he didn't have the best command, either. Like Fisher, he may be resistant to change and/or guidance along the way.
Seeing how he may be considered a top choice for Jackson in New York, it would be beneficial to bring him on as an assistant before this season ends to get him acclimated with the players and vice versa.
When Steve Kerr spurned Jackson for Golden State, the Knicks' President should have made a hard play at Walton (instead of Fisher) as his second choice for the team's head coaching job. Of course, hindsight is 20/20.
Walton has undoubtedly bolstered his resume since then with another NBA championship ring and a hot start as interim head coach with the Warriors while filling in for Kerr this season. Of course, any number of coaches could have done well in that situation, but Walton was praised for his demeanor and subsequent reactionary moves during crunch time of games, which was clearly a weak point of Fisher's. Walton is a young coach, but he has more of a track record and some recent exposure may endear him even further to Jackson, his former head coach.
Thibodeau is arguably the most successful and desirable head coaching candidate on the open market right now. He posted a .647 winning percentage with the Bulls, won an NBA championship as an assistant with the Celtics, and has experience as an assistant with the Knicks. Many things add up in Thibodeau's favor, but one thing distinctly does not: he is obviously not a triangle/Jackson disciple.
But Thibodeau is one hell of a defensive guru, can hold guys accountable, and already has a built-in relationship with Carmelo Anthony after working together on Team USA. He has to have Jackson's respect after finding success in Chicago. If Jackson is willing to build a foundation with a head coach a bit more, this pairing could work.
Patrick Ewing and Kobe Bryant
These are obviously two outside of the box and perhaps unlikely candidates, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to see each come in for interviews.
Hiring Bryant straight out of retirement (much like Jackson did with Fisher) wouldn't be the most savvy move, and it would prove Jackson is merely a glutton for punishment. But given Bryant's status and the respect Jackson has for him, it wouldn't be the craziest hire.
Hiring Ewing would be a home run for the fans. The type of experience he boasts as an assistant over the years trumps most of the other candidates Jackson will consider. Ewing played against the triangle and obviously knows Jackson fairly well because of it. An extra endorsement from Michael Jordan (currently the owner of Ewing's Hornets) may help get him in the door once again. Experience should undoubtedly be a key desirable component this time around, and Ewing has plenty of it.