Lakers say they’re 95% sure Phil Jackson will return as coach

The Lakers are hoping to get Phil Jackson back on the sidelines.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers are moving quickly toward hiring Phil Jackson as their next coach, with one person in the organization calling it a “95%" chance he will return for a third tour with the team.

The Lakers plan on meeting with Jackson on Saturday morning to make sure he is interested in the job. The unknown 5% in their equation is the chance Jackson doesn’t want to fill the vacancy created by the Friday firing of Mike Brown, either because of health reasons or other unknown issues.

The team realized a slew of things stemming from the 101-77 Lakers’ victory Friday over Golden State, primarily that the players wanted Jackson and fans wanted him too, in case their second-half chants of his name weren’t enough of a tipoff.

Ultimately, Lakers management wants Jackson too. It’s just a matter of where Jackson stands right now. People who have spoken with him in recent weeks say he enjoys his life away from the game but is also intrigued by the Lakers’ roster and the opportunity to return to the only franchise he has known since 1999.

GRAPHICS: Phil Jackson’s record-setting career


Jackson left the Lakers after the 2010-11 season, and at least one prominent player said he wanted a chance at redemption on Jackson’s behalf.

“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,” Kobe 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.”

Bryant’s right knee affected him toward the end of that season, which ended with the Lakers being swept by Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals. Bryant ended up undergoing a cutting-edge procedure on his knee in Germany later that summer.

Lakers center Dwight Howard said he would also be fine playing for Jackson.

“I think it would be great,” Howard told The Times. “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.

Former New York Knicks Coach Mike D’Antoni is a candidate for the job if Jackson turns it down.

The Lakers (2-4) play Sacramento on Sunday at Staples Center.


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