Zen again? If Lakers want Phil Jackson, they shouldn’t wait
If the Lakers rehire Phil Jackson, there will have to be one concession.
They’ll have to give him his old office back. Jim Buss has been in it since Jackson left after the 2011-12 season. Whatever.
The solution to the Lakers’ problem is right in Jerry Buss’ backyard. He lives maybe a mile from Jackson, two multimillionaire brethren in need of one another again. For a third time.
The Lakers officially contacted Phil Jackson to gauge his interest in their coaching vacancy. Nothing was offered, nothing was solved, but a lot was gained.
Jackson has never stopped watching the Lakers since leaving them. He’s interested in working for them again, according to numerous people who are close to him.
“He’s never out of touch with what’s going on,” said a person close to him. “He’s never walked away from the game.”
There’s a lot of noise out there right now — Mike D’Antoni, Nate McMillan, Jerry Sloan, Brian Shaw, even Mike Dunleavy — but only one set of dots connects the Lakers to a championship.
Jackson’s confidants say the Lakers need to move quickly. No need to bruise his ego by making him stand in line.
The Lakers will also have to hang on to Pau Gasol despite his relatively subpar season so far. Jackson is a big fan of his. Huge.
The $10 million the Lakers still owe Mike Brown for terminating him in the second year of his four-year contract will probably be what it takes annually to get Jackson. It’s roughly 8.3333333% of what they’ll receive for TV broadcasting rights from Time Warner Cable this season.
It’s easy to figure out his coaching staff too.
It starts with dragging Kurt Rambis away from the TV analyst’s tables at ESPN and Time Warner. He’d be up for it, even though he likes what he does now.
It would be simple to call Frank Hamblen down in Del Mar and get him back into the mix. Especially since the horses aren’t running there again until next July.
Jim Cleamons is still around, too, and Jackson can bring back one of his former players to fill another seat near him on the bench. Ron Harper or Robert Horry makes sense.
It’s too bad Shaw can’t be added to the mix. He’s stuck in Indiana, currently the “associate head coach” of the Pacers. He’d be the pick as the Lakers’ head coach down the road, when it wouldn’t be so hard to extract him from his present-day duties, though one person familiar with the situation said it wouldn’t be as difficult as one might expect.
“If they decided that’s the head coach they wanted, it could happen,” he said.
It’s a good Plan B, no doubt.
But here’s what the players think about Jackson.
Kobe Bryant? Please. He still talks about Jackson as if he left only last week. (It actually was after the 2010-11 season, when the Lakers were swept by Dallas in the second round of the playoffs.)
“The one thing that’s kind of always bothered me is that in his last year I wasn’t able to give him my normal self,” Bryant said Friday night. “I was playing on one leg and that’s kind of always eaten away at me. The last year of his career I wasn’t able to give him all I had.
“He’s too great of a coach to have it go out that way. That’s my personal sentiment. I took it to heart because I couldn’t give it everything I had because I physically couldn’t. My knee was shot. That’s always bothered me.”
Dwight Howard and Steve Nash would endorse Jackson but would also have one big question: How would they fit into the triangle offense? Fair enough. They can call Shaquille O’Neal and Derek Fisher. It worked pretty well for them.
“I think it would be great,” Howard said. “He’s a guy I could learn a lot from. But until he comes, we have to put all of our faith into Bernie” Bickerstaff, the Lakers’ interim coach.
Even Metta World Peace, for what it’s worth, contacted Jackson during the playoffs last season, told him how much he missed him. He’d be on board.
Lakers fans, by the way, cast a ballot for the second time this week. They chanted “We want Phil!” during the Lakers’ 101-77 victory Friday over Golden State.
It’s slightly understandable why the Lakers don’t want a total one-horse race for their coaching job. The 16-time champion Lakers.
D’Antoni’s offense is fun and exciting, the Phoenix Suns of a few years ago mildly reminiscent of the Lakers back in the 1980s. But D’Antoni did that with a young team filled with obscene speed and sweet shooters. The Lakers have ... neither!
It’s not even worth mentioning that D’Antoni never won a championship. Jackson’s won 11 of them.
There are other names, too, if the Lakers really want to open this thing up.
McMillan is liked by Bryant but is a defensive-minded coach. It’s obvious how that went the last time they hired someone like that. (Hint: Scan the headlines of the last 24 hours.)
Sloan has never known anything but Utah, coaching the Jazz for 23 years before an alleged falling-out with All-Star point guard Deron Williams. There are two words for Sloan in a big city with big media and a national swath of sometimes-angry fans: Good luck.
The Lakers didn’t jump at the chance to plug in Jackson when Rudy Tomjanovich quit 43 games into the 2004-05 season. They waited until after the season. The result? They failed to make the playoffs for only the second time in 28 years.
They won’t make the same mistake this time. It’d be worth betting a day of Jackson’s salary. OK, maybe an hour. Or a minute.
Times correspondent Eric Pincus contributed to this report.
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