Mark Jackson nearly shed a tear in his coaching debut Sunday after looking into the crowd and seeing his wife and children. Imagine how the native New Yorker and ex-Knick would have felt if he was coaching his hometown team.

Jackson was a candidate to coach the Knicks before they picked Mike D'Antoni in 2008. Three years later, Jackson was hired in Golden State and will coach against his old team for the first time Wednesday.

"It would have been great, but it didn't happen," Jackson said about the Knicks' job during a conference call Monday. "They got themselves a very good basketball coach and are headed in the right direction. It is what it is, and I'm excited to be coaching for the Golden State Warriors."

Although Jackson's team lost to the Clippers, 105-86, he still felt the love in Oakland, Calif. Not only were his family there, but old friends and ex-colleagues, coaches and teammates made the trip.

Old broadcast partners Jeff Van Gundy _ who coached Jackson with the Knicks _ and Mike Breen flew in to do the game for ESPN _ after they worked Miami-Dallas for ABC earlier Sunday. They had a third member on their TV team: Chris Mullin, who played with Jackson at St. John's and with the Pacers.

Everything was perfect for Jackson except the result. But it was the first step of a long-awaited journey that made Jackson reflect and get emotional when he saw his family Christmas night.

"It was a struggle," Jackson said. "I'm not ashamed and not embarrassed to cry. Real men do. It's been a long ride and tremendous sacrifices across the board. When I look at people, I don't just look at them. I look at the stories behind them, the sacrifices made and the commitment."

Jackson played 6{ of his 17 NBA seasons with the Knicks, and he ranks second on their all-time assist list. Even considering his history with the Knicks and how much he wanted to coach them, Jackson called Wednesday "just another game to me." But he said it's "disappointing" he doesn't get to visit Madison Square Garden this season.

The lockout prevents Jackson from coming to New York, but not from seeing the big man he nearly brought to the Bay Area.

Tyson Chandler said Golden State recruited him the hardest in free agency. When he agreed to sign with the Knicks, he said telling Jackson he wouldn't join the Warriors was difficult.

"We believe we were very close to getting him," Jackson said. "We thought he was an incredible get _ a high-character guy, true professional, could have been the face of our defense. We went after him hard.

"At the end of the day financially and also the opportunity to play in New York City won out. But he's a guy that we really went after extremely hard and thought the world of. My thoughts and ideas and appreciation for him do not change even though he has a Knick uniform on. He's a class guy, true professional and an asset to any team."

Jackson remains positive about missing out on Chandler and the Knicks' job three years ago.

"I overcame it because I'm a guy of tremendous faith in God," Jackson said. "I believe what's mine is mine and if I don't get it, it wasn't meant for me. That's how I live my life.

"I would have understood it if I never coached in this league. I would have been fine with it. I know it's probably hard to believe, but I don't live with disappointment."