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'I feel deeply sorry'

Checketts admits lying about meeting with Jackson

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Posted: Monday May 24, 1999 09:37 PM

  New York Knicks president Dave Checketts says he's still keeping his options open regarding coaches and players. AP

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jeff Van Gundy received an apology but no assurances Monday from the president of the New York Knicks, who was caught lying about the team's interest in former Bulls coach Phil Jackson.

"I regret that I lied about it," said Dave Checketts, who denied for two days that he had met with Jackson before abruptly changing his story Sunday during the second half of Game 3 in the Hawks-Knicks series.

The Knicks held a 3-0 lead heading into Monday night's Game 4.

A victory would put them into the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1994, but even that might not be enough to save Van Gundy's job.

"We're not going to make decisions about anything -- players to trade, who stays, who goes or the status of the coaches -- until after the season is over and we've had a chance to review. That status hasn't changed," Checketts said.

"It's not fair to make an evaluation on somebody or a judgment on what should happen in the organization based on one series, one shot or one win," Checketts said. "He [Van Gundy] has agreed to that and he's comfortable with that."

Van Gundy had little to say on the matter before the game, keeping his comments geared toward the immediate task at hand -- beating Atlanta.

After Sunday's victory, Van Gundy said he believed Checketts when the team president told him there had been no contact with Jackson.

On Monday afternoon, however, Checketts was in the coach's office apologizing.

"For misleading Jeff I feel deeply sorry, and I told him that," Checketts said.

Van Gundy is in his fourth season as coach of the Knicks, the team he has spent more than a decade with as an assistant and head coach. Van Gundy, with a career record of 140-97 including 20-16 in the playoffs, has one year remaining on a three-year, $6 million contract.

Jackson has been on a sabbatical since leading the Bulls to their sixth title of the decade last June. Checketts said he met with Jackson for about two hours in mid-April when the Knicks were 21-21 and in danger of missing the playoffs.

News of the meeting came out over the weekend, and Checketts denied everything before coming clean.

"We met for a couple of hours, and there were no offers exchanged," Checketts said. "There was nothing that came out of the meeting other than getting acquainted with a guy who I felt was a tremendous option for us if we had not made the playoffs and needed a new direction.

"If anything, what I did is err on the side of protecting everyone. I had to do the job of finding out if I had an option like that."

Checketts, the president of Madison Square Garden, has been running the Knicks on a day-to-day basis since general manager Ernie Grunfeld was demoted in mid-April because of a rift between him and Van Gundy.

Checketts said he has been contacted by numerous people around the league interested in taking over as coach or general manager.

Patrick Ewing, who has been with the Knicks for 14 seasons, said he would demand a trade if Jackson was hired.

"Patrick has a right to say whatever he wants," Checketts said. "We'll make decisions regarding the organization in the summertime."

One of the unanswered questions surrounding the Checketts-Jackson meeting is who set it up. Checketts said he contacted Jackson through an intermediary, but he refused to say who it was.

Tony Wyche, a spokesman for presidential candidate Bill Bradley, said the former Knicks forward was not the intermediary.

Related information
Knicks president confirms 'contact' with Phil Jackson
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