Jeanie Buss, the Lakers’ president and co-owner, and New York Knicks President Phil Jackson have called off their four-year engagement.
Jackson announced the decision by posting a joint statement with Buss on Twitter.
“With mutual love and respect, we have decided to end our engagement,” the statement read. “With the nature of our professional obligations and the geographic distance between us, sustaining the relationship has been difficult. We have shared many wonderful moments through the years, and we expect to remain supportive of each other in the future.”
Buss added on Twitter: “The love of my life is the Los Angeles Lakers. I love Phil & will always. It’s not fair to him or Lakers to not have my undivided attention.”
She did not watch Tuesday’s home game against the Utah Jazz from her regular seat at Staples Center.
Buss and Jackson met during the 1999-2000 season, when Jackson first began coaching the Lakers. Los Angeles won the first of three consecutive NBA championships that season. Jackson coached five Lakers championship teams.
Buss and Jackson got engaged in December 2012, a year after Jackson’s last season coaching the Lakers. Two years later, in the spring of 2014, Jackson began his career as an NBA executive as the Knicks president.
That spring, Jim Buss, the Lakers co-owner and executive vice president of basketball operations, told The Times that he planned to step down if the Lakers weren’t in contention for a championship in three or four years.
Because of that timeline and because of Jeanie Buss’ relationship with Jackson, many often speculated that Jackson might return to Los Angeles in a personnel capacity of some sort after leaving New York.
As the Lakers’ governor, Jeanie Buss would decide Jim’s fate. Asked in October if she would hold firm to the timeline, she declined to specifically address the timeline.
“There’s no reason to speculate, and it’s early in the season,” she told The Times. “That’s why we play the games. I’m eager to see how they’re doing. Playing games is what we need to see.”
The Lakers were 12-22 before Tuesday’s game against the Utah Jazz, and started the season a surprising 10-10.
Although rumors ran rampant about Jackson’s return, neither he nor Jeanie Buss gave them traction.
“They’re moving forward in the right direction,” Jackson told ESPN.com. “Luke [Walton, Lakers coach] has them engaged, Brian [Shaw] is an associate head coach; they have a core group of guys that will get it done. It was never important to me to go back and be a part of that. Especially not now. I have this job, this commitment.”
Jackson has a mutual option in his contract for after the 2016-17 season, but said in that interview that clause was only to allow him to leave if the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement situation resulted in a lockout at the start of next season. Instead the league and players ratified a new CBA last week.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli