August 6, 2003 -- Ex-Knick Mark Jackson, an unsigned free agent, would like to wait another year before pursuing his NBA coaching and GM dreams.

But he proved to some reporters he will make a good personnel man in the final stages of the 2002 season.

Jackson, then the Knicks' starting point guard, seemed to know his stuff better than most GMs who didn't consider power forward Amare Stoudemire a high lottery pick.

After watching Stoudemire play the Garden in a high-school All-Star contest, Jackson began whispering in the locker room that, if Stoudemire were available for them at No. 7, the Knicks would be crazy not to grab him.

The Knicks passed on the eventual Rookie of the Year and traded the pick along with Jackson and Marcus Camby in the failed Antonio McDyess blockbuster.

But Jackson thinks Knick GM Scott Layden may have gotten it right in showing "guts" two weeks ago when he dealt fan favorite Latrell Sprewell for Keith Van Horn - a deal ripped by fans and media.

"Welcome to New York City," Jackson said of the rough reviews. "Certainly they needed size. Everybody knew that. You're not going to get away with playing the front line they've played the last couple of years. They definitely needed size and went out and got size.

"[In Sprewell], they lost a big part of their basketball team, a big part of New York City, and they get in return a player who can play and help," added Jackson, at the Garden to promote the Wheelchair Charity All-Star Game Sept. 10.

"I think they were in a situation where they had to do something. I give them credit because it takes guts to make a move, especially when you're moving a guy who can play."

Jackson, 38, played last season in Utah but has ruled out returning there. Jackson lived in a hotel last season, not willing to move his family to Salt Lake City. The Jacksons now live in L.A., and he'd love to sign with the Clippers, now minus Andre Miller, or San Antonio, which lost Speedy Claxton.

But Jackson said he's not in serious talks with any team.

"I really don't want to go back," Jackson said of Utah. "I was away from my family for the first time in my career. I still want to play. I still enjoy playing and feel I can help a team. There's people calling all the time offering jobs to me as an assistant, TV. But I'm planning on playing."

Jackson said a playoff contender is not a requirement. "People may have said that last year and I chose Utah and ultimately wound up playing three or four more games than the Knicks," Jackson said.

When he retires, Jackson, who is president of the Wheelchair game, hopes to be a head coach right away. "I've served as an assistant for almost 17 years if you're a true point guard," Jackson said.

* Tickets for the All-Star Classic to benefit Wheelchair Charities go on sale Monday at the Garden box office and Ticketmaster, including by phone (212-307-7171).

Queens' Ron Artest, Kenyon Martin, Tim Thomas, Claxton and Kenny Anderson all plan to play. No Knicks are in yet, as regular Allan Houston (knee surgery) may not be ready.
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i'm not sure if we're talking about guts here