Analysis: Who's at the top of the Nets list? Have no doubt it's Phil Jackson

Ronald Martinez

In talking to league and team insiders and reading both the internet (and tea leaves), it becomes quite obvious that the Nets choices for an Avery Johnson replacement come down to Phil Jackson and everyone else. And the insiders believe, there is indeed a chance the Nets will wind up with the coach who's looking to make it an even dozen rings in his collection.

Jackson has every advantage Mikhail Prokhorov (and his No. 2, Dmitry Razumov) want in a coach. He is a winner, he is high profile and he will steal some thunder from the crosstown Knicks, who truth be told are struggling a bit now. Also, as one league source put it. "Phil wipes everyone's slate clean." And it does appear that Jackson is, as Ken Berger writes, "intrigued" by the possibilities ... and the roster.

Lost in all the reportage and punditry this week was a column on Sheridan Hoops by Jackson's long-time friend and confidante, Charley Rosen. He writes...

There are several reasons why Jackson could enjoy coaching the Nets and — sooner rather than later — mold them into legitimate championship contenders, the most critical being that the current roster is almost a perfect fit for the triangle.

Rosen, normally a curmudgeon, goes on at length about the wonders of the Nets roster, comparing it to Jackson rosters in Chicago and L.A. He readily concedes there's no Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant available in Brooklyn, but notes that "while Joe Johnson isn’t in the same class as MJ or Kobe, he’s still extremely creative in one-on-one situations." He also thinks Brook Lopez compares favorably to Pau Gasol, Gerald Wallace could become "Scottie Pippen 2.0" and he believes his old pal could mold Andray Blatche into a starting power forward a la Horace Grant.

D-Will? "Deron Williams functions best in a 'read' (as opposed to a patterned grind-it-out) offense that also demands spontaneity," writes Rosen. He does note that Jackson has common health issues that 67-year-old men face: an angioplasty on his heart, a bad back, kidney stones. Would he want to avoid long road trips like the 17-day, eight-game beauty in late March? Would he want more power in personnel moves? How quickly can the triangle be taught? etc., etc. Bottom line for Rosen though is: "Don’t count on it, but don’t rule it out, either."

Moreover, sources say that the team is not as likely to be patient as some would suggest. They'd like to get this done soon, like within two weeks, said one source, maybe sooner. Is that a diss for P.J. Carlesimo? Not at all. He remains a candidate but Prokhorov et al simply feel they need to do something relatively fast to push things along ... and make people forget the reason why this change was necessary. That impatience hurts Jeff Van Gundy who told Adrian Wojnarowski Friday he didn't want to talk to the Nets while Carlesimo held the reins. JVG may also want to hang on to his ESPN gig for a bit. TV contracts can be complicated.

As for Mike Dunleavy, insiders were mystified at his not-too-subtle campaigning for the job Friday on his Sirius XM radio show. He would have been better served if he had kept quiet. It left a bad taste in some people's mouths. As for Kelvin Sampson, the Rockets assistant, he is respected but would the Nets give the job to someone unknown to all but the most knowledgeable fans? Unlikely, said one source. Gutsy but unlikely. That leaves Carlesimo. And if this drags on without a resolution, and the Nets start to win, then it's certainly possible he sticks around.

Sure, there are other names out there who've yet to surface ... and might not surface until the last minute, but it's Phil Jackson's job if he wants it. Prokhorov said he would meet "P.J." Saturday as the team moves its search into high gear. We all assume he meant Carlesimo.

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