Phil Jackson hadn’t entirely decided if he wanted to be coach of the Lakers.
Nonetheless, he was surprised when they called him near midnight Sunday with news that Mike D’Antoni would be coach of the Lakers, not him.
“I wish it would have been a little bit cleaner,” a relaxed and chatty Jackson said in a phone interview Monday night with The Times. “It could have been much more circumspect and respectful of everybody that’s involved. It seemed slimy to be awoken with this kind of news. It’s just weird.”
Jackson said he vacillated every few hours over the weekend on whether he wanted to coach the Lakers for a third time. Just the same, he insisted he made few demands when he met informally with team executives Saturday at his home.
He laughed at Internet reports that he wanted to skip road games this year if he returned to the Lakers. He also said he didn’t have eyes on taking over the team’s front office.
“There’s nothing about that,” he said before mentioning team executive Jim Buss. “Jimmy and I had an agreement when I came back for the second tenure that there would be complete transparency in personnel decisions. I did bring up [Saturday] there were a couple things that went by me that time and I would be part and parcel of such a thing this time.”
He was intrigued by the “excitement and talent of the team, and the attraction,” he said, adding, “I’m physically much stronger now than I was last spring.”
But there were drawbacks if he got the job, he reasoned.
“I do think the Lakers have the personnel that could come out of the West,” he said. “I don’t know if they have the mobility and agility to contend with the East. To call this a championship-bound team, that’s a misnomer. That’s one of the things where I had to think about with expectations and did I want to go through that again?”
Jackson’s last run with the team ended in a sweep at the hands of Dallas in the 2011 Western Conference finals. That team also had aspirations of getting back to the NBA Finals, if not winning a third consecutive NBA championship.
Jackson, 67, said no other team would have caught his attention like the Lakers in such a situation.
“It’s L.A. It’s the Lakers. It’s the players I’ve been with. It’s my partner’s team,” he said, referring to longtime companion Jeanie Buss, daughter of owner Jerry Buss. “It’s the family business. But I have no intention of going somewhere and starting all over and coaching a team from scratch.”