Phil Jackson doesn’t see a return to the Lakers
Phil Jackson seems entirely content with his life, sitting at a corner table as the hummus and pita go quickly in the afternoon din of a Playa Vista eatery.
It’s not quite what he envisioned last November when the Lakers interviewed him for their unexpected coaching vacancy, but it’s not bad, thank you.
Of course he watches the Lakers on TV, lives them almost daily with fiancee and team governor Jeanie Buss. But he doesn’t see returning in any capacity to the team he was prepared to coach after Mike Brown got fired early last season.
“At the present time I don’t see how that would work out with the way the organization is set up right now. There would have to be some seismic shift,” he said.
A new position would have to be created, and of greater importance, Jackson, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak would have to bury the hatchet over Mike D’Antoni getting the Lakers’ coaching job.
“I know it was difficult for Jeanie because I wasn’t putting my hat in the ring and they asked me to come and interview for the job, of which I think they had no intention of actually following through,” Jackson said. “I think those things stuck at the core of Laker die-hard fans.”
The “We Want Phil” chants seeped into many games last season, initially when Brown was fired and continuing at times after D’Antoni was hired.
Jackson doesn’t have any hard feelings.
“I want people to know that I really want to support the Lakers and I’m here to support Jeanie in her effort to keep this franchise vital and vibrant. I have every intention of trying to help them move forward,” Jackson said.
He even seemed to sympathize with D’Antoni.
“Having the opportunity to coach the team for 11 years and going to the Finals seven times, winning five championships, it’s a ridiculous run. The expectations” weigh heavily, he said.
“John Wooden’s presence at UCLA was a difficult thing for guys to get over. Some good coaches came in behind him and had limited success. It took 20, 25 years to win a championship.”
There was one way Jackson could have ended the pro-Phil sentiment. Leave Los Angeles.
“Jeanie was like, ‘Get a job in an advisor role, get out of town, take your presence away a little bit. It might help them,’ ” Jackson said.
He planned to be in the front office for Seattle if the Sacramento Kings moved there. When that fell through, he picked up a temporary gig assisting Detroit in its search for a coach. He said he was contacted by other NBA owners but nothing seemed to fit.
Jackson wants to be more consultant than general manager, someone to “set the tone and culture” for a franchise but not “chasing players, agents and coaches,” he said.
One thing is certain. Jackson, 68, is done coaching.
He mentioned a sister-in-law who attended a game when he started coaching on Chicago’s staff in the late 1980s.
“She watched me as a player a lot of my career and she came up to me after that game and said, ‘It seems so natural to see you out on the court, like you belong right where you are.’
“I don’t feel that’s my role anymore to be out there on the court.”
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