Phil Jackson doesn’t want to lie to himself, he’s done coaching.
“Sometimes I feel I can still get out there and do it but the reality is I’m kidding myself," Jackson said at a “Live Talks Los Angeles” event at the Alex Theatre in Glendale on Wednesday.
Jackson said he returned for one final year with the team in 2010-11 as a favor to the late Dr. Jerry Buss (and his support staff).
“When I was done I knew I was done -- physically it was over,” he said. “Even though after I got a knee replacement and a prostatectomy in the last year and a half.”
Jackson was diagnosed with prostate cancer midway through his final season, but has since recovered.
“It’s those long flights and three o’clock nights -- getting up after five hours of sleep and going back to work, those are the things that wear you out,” continued the Hall-of-Fame coach.
Jackson was greeted by an enthusiastic audience at the Alex Theatre, chanting the now familiar, “We want Phil.”
Former Lakers center John Salley hosted the event to help Jackson promote his memoir, “Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success.”
“I have no intention of coaching,” said Jackson, reiterating that he’s open to the idea of helping to shape an organization in the front office.
"[The Lakers are] going through crisis and if they ask me to come and sit and just listen to what’s going on, I’m willing to do that,” he said. “As of right now there’s not a position that’s open there, in which to have an influence -- so I understand that.”
Naturally, he talks to his fiancee, Jeanie Buss, who is an executive and owner with the team.
“I’m trying to counsel her on ways the team can improve,” he said. “They’re a mess, we know that because of their financial disorder right now, that’s the thing they have to get straight right away.”
The Lakers are looking at massive luxury taxes this season, especially if they keep free agent Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol (with a year left on his deal). The team could end up paying in the neighborhood of $60-80 million in taxes. The collective bargaining agreement limits the tax teams in a variety of ways.
“For them to be able to move and to adjust to the process that goes on in the NBA, you have to have flexibility. The [way] the league is structured with its new CBA and how it penalizes teams - you can’t make moves,” said Jackson. "[With] guys like Carmelo [Anthony] and LeBron [James] in a couple of years, you’ve got to be capable of making a challenge for those kinds of players.”
The Lakers expect to have significant cap space over the summer of 2014 when players like Anthony and James may be available. That would start a five-year window for the team without significant tax penalties.
Naturally Jackson wanted Brian Shaw to take over for him after he left the Lakers in 2011 but the team went with Mike Brown, and then, after a brief flirtation with Jackson, chose Mike D’Antoni.
“I sat with [Lakers General Manager] Mitch Kupchak a week ago and even he couldn’t find out for me,” said Jackson of Shaw. “It had something to do with [Lakers owner/executive] Jimmy Buss, I think.”
Jackson is hopeful that his protégé ends up in the right situation as head coach.
“I think that Brian might have an opportunity but I just want it to be the right one for him,” said Jackson. "The last conversation I had, I told him to make sure he doesn’t end up in a no-win situation like Charlotte.”
The Bobcats, despite owner Michael Jordan, have continually struggled to put together a winning product.
“I say that with great respect for my former assistant Kurt Rambis, who ended up in Minnesota, didn’t have a lot of success there and hasn’t gotten mentioned in recent years since,” said Jackson. “I think Brian can do a really good job with [the Clippers]. However I don’t think [Donald] Sterling will hire him because he’s always a guy who goes against the grain.”
Shaw, who was an associate head coach with the Indiana Pacers this past season, lost out on the Brooklyn Nets job to Jason Kidd. He’s interviewed with the Clippers and has had talks with other teams as well.
Jackson noted Byron Scott may make more sense to the Clippers since the Cleveland Cavaliers are still paying him salary after firing him in April.
“I wanted to see [Shaw] have the [Brooklyn] Nets job, I thought that would have been the perfect job for him,” he said.
Other teams looking to hire coaches include the Memphis Grizzlies, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers.
The Lakers insist they’re committed to D’Antoni, despite the team’s struggles this past season -- finishing at 45-37 with a first-round sweep by the San Antonio Spurs (albeit with significant injuries).