When Phil Jackson decided to take the job with the Knicks last week, it had two consequences for the Nets: It meant one of the most respected men in NBA history was joining their archrivals ... and it ended a two-year long informal relationship between the Nets ownership and the NBA's most successful coach.
Nets insiders tell NetsDaily that the team's Russian owners and Jackson were often in contact over the last two years, as Mikhail Prokhorov, Dmitry Razumov, etc. found their way through the NBA thicket ... and on more than one occasion, they discussed a job for Jackson in the Nets organization, but talks never progressed beyond the informal and were restricted to coaching.
"Ownership sought his informal advice on number of things over last couple of years," said one Nets insider, who noted the Russians cast a wide net in seeking advice. "There were informal conversations but they never got to specific job discussions."
The job discussions, said the insider, were always about coaching the team. "They were considering him as coach - the discussions never got to that stage. Billy may have inquired but ownership always knew he does not want to coach." (There were reports during the Nets coaching search that King did reach out.)
Another insider said the Nets looked at Jackson, Gregg Popovich and Pat Riley as the three game-changers among NBA executives "and only one of them was unemployed."
Jackson has said he consulted informally with "four or five teams." Among the others he spoke with were the Pistons and the ownership group that wanted to buy the Kings and move them to Seattle. The consultancies, he has said, were unpaid.
As for the Nets job, Jackson has acknowledged that he and the team had discussions. When Dan Patrick asked in May of last year if the Nets had offered him a front office job, Jackson seemed to hesitate, then noted, "That was, come and ... no, that was coaching basically. They wanted to know if I was still interested."
The Knicks will introduce Jackson as their president of basketball operations on Tuesday.