Isiah needs help

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:57 AM ET

Only New York could turn the question of who is going to coach the Knicks next season into a matter of daily debate -- before Groundhog Day!

Phil Jackson? Larry Brown? Why not Red Auerbach?

Ever since Lenny Wilkens was forced to leave the Knicks organization and was replaced as head coach on an interim basis by Herb Williams, speculation in the Big Apple has run rampant. Jackson and Brown have thrown gasoline on the fire, with what they have said and what they haven't said.

The coaching distraction actually is good news for Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas.

As long as people are debating who the coach should be, they aren't debating who the GM should be. And Thomas' record as GM has been dubious, his signature moves thus far being the acquisition of self-aggrandizing point guard Stephon Marbury and the hiring of Wilkens.

Jackson has emerged as perhaps the most logical candidate to coach the Knicks, simply because he played for the team in the '70s, his coaching success with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers is well-documented, and he doesn't currently have a job.

Could Jackson and Thomas work together? It probably is more important to Thomas' future than to Jackson's future that the answer to that question be "yes."

Jackson has said that if and when the Knicks call he would "have to listen," although many believe Jackson and Thomas already have been in contact with each other through intermediaries. And as far as public speculation goes, an unnamed source described as a "close confidant" of Jackson's told The New York Times, "(Jackson) is enjoying keeping everyone guessing."

As for Brown, he's keeping everyone guessing, too, but no one is enjoying it.

The thing is, the much-travelled Brown has a job. He merely is the coach of the Detroit Pistons, the team he led to an NBA championship just last June.

When Brown, who was born in Brooklyn, was asked about the Knicks' coaching position, he made the mistake of talking openly about it. He said the Knicks job is something he has "dreamed about many times."

That dreaming has led to some very hard feelings. Pistons owner Bill Davidson apparently feels betrayed, Pistons GM Joe Dumars is livid, and the Pistons players are confused.

Some media members in Detroit have concluded it's unlikely Brown will be back with the Pistons next season, regardless of where he ends up.

Brown, who is under contract with the Pistons for three more lucrative years after this one, has spent the past few days backtracking and trying to patch things up in Detroit. But a lot of damage already has been done, especially since the Pistons already have had more than enough problems this season trying to regain their championship form.

"I never have been smart enough to say, 'No comment,' " Brown said in yesterday's editions of The Detroit Free Press.

What gets lost in all this Big Apple navel-gazing is that no one with any shred of sanity would consider coaching the Knicks to be a "dream job" right now. They'll be tied up in salary-cap hell from here to eternity, most of the players either are selfish or are breaking down physically (or both), and there's a GM in place who kind of wants to coach the team himself without actually sitting on the bench.

The Knicks may not be in first place, but their ability to make themselves the unwarranted centre of the basketball universe continues to lead the league.

NOT FUNNY, EH?

Radio commericals in Charlotte trying to sell tickets for the Raptors-Bobcats game last Friday were woefully predictable, with some guy doing a bad Canadian "hoser" impersonation and numerous stereotypical references to hockey and cold weather. The ads were too juvenile to be insulting to Canada, but they were very insulting to anyone with a sense of humour.

NOW THIS IS FUNNY

If you're looking for something that truly was amusing, there was a great moment during the Raptors-Phoenix Suns game at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday. Raptors coach Sam Mitchell loudly asked referee Courtney Kirkland how he could have missed a foul allegedly committed against Raptors rookie centre Rafael Araujo. A puzzled Kirkland stared at Mitchell and said, "Who?" The look on Mitchell's face at that moment essentially said, "Well, you just made my point."

A TAD TOO LATE

Miami's Dwyane Wade had this to say after watching Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers score 45 points in a win against the Heat: "I wish he would've done that in the Olympics. We both would've been happier." Wade and Iverson played for the United States team that won a bronze medal in Athens last summer.

DIFFERENT WORLDS

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush attended a Houston Rockets home game recently, and it marked the third time Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy has met a president or ex-president (the other two were Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton). "When I met (Clinton) it was Christmas eve," Van Gundy recalled. "I remember he said, 'We should get together sometime and talk about leadership.' I said, 'That would be great.' He said, 'Yeah, I have to go to Asia for an economic summit, then I have to go to the Middle East.' And I was thinking, 'I got TNT Thursday.' This guy is talking about real things. I'm talking about the Pistons."

LACK OF COMMUNICATION

Jerry Sloan of the Utah Jazz is one of the most respected coaches in the NBA, but Carlos Arroyo is not a member of the Sloan fan club. Arroyo, an ex-Raptor who recently was traded from the Jazz to the Detroit Pistons, told The Salt Lake Tribune that when Sloan informed Arroyo of the trade in a blunt 30-second conversation, Sloan didn't even sit down, standing in a doorway as if he couldn't wait to get away. "He didn't want to talk to me, even then," Arroyo said. "He just didn't like me. I went from a starter, to not starting, to the fourth point guard. That doesn't happen all of a sudden because of how I play -- it's beyond that. At the end, I think it was personal."


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