Posted November 10, 2012

Reports: Phil Jackson close to return as Lakers coach

Ben Golliver, Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson

Are Kobe Bryant, left, and Phil Jackson getting closer to another reunion? (Glenn James/Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

The great ones have a hard time staying away.

NBA legend Phil Jackson is reportedly close to rejoining the Los Angeles Lakers as coach, one day after the team fired Mike Brown following a 1-4 start to the 2012-13 season.

Multiple reports indicated Saturday that Jackson is in good health and is the Lakers’ top candidate — perhaps the only candidate who has been contacted — and that at least two former assistants could join him in Los Angeles.

Jackson, inducted into the Hall of Fame as a coach in 2007, holds a career record of 1155-485 (.704) in twenty seasons coaching the Bulls and Lakers. He has won 11 titles as a coach.

During a press conference Friday, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said the team would consider Jackson, according to the New York Times.

Acknowledging the team’s interest in Jackson, General Manager Mitch Kupchak said, “I think you’d be negligent not to be aware that he’s out there.”

Jackson announced his retirement following the Lakers’ loss in the 2011 playoffs to the Mavericks, who went on to win the title. At the time, Jackson said he would not return to the bench, according to ESPNLA.com.

“In all my hopes and aspirations, this is the final game that I’ll coach,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful run.”

The Lakers defeated the Warriors on Friday night 101-77 under interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff. After the game, guard Kobe Bryant and center Dwight Howard voiced support for Jackson, according to the Los Angeles Times, and Bryant specifically noted regrets about the loss to the Mavericks in 2011.

“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.”

“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.

If hired, this would mark Jackson’s third stint with the Lakers. He previously stepped away for the 2004-2005 season, only to return to guide the Lakers to titles in 2009 and 2010. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2011 that Jackson made as much as $12 million in one season while coaching the Lakers.

On Saturday, reports indicated that the Lakers were focused on Jackson only and that no other candidates, including former New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni, had been contacted.

CBSSports.com reported that Jackson was the “leading candidate” and that he is motivated to make an NBA return. Jackson last coached during the 2010-11 season.

Phil Jackson has emerged as the clear leading candidate to be the Lakers’ next coach, and two people connected to the 11-time champion coach told CBSSports.com on Saturday that all indications point to Jackson wanting the job. “Phil wants it,” one of the people with ties to Jackson said.

CSNBayArea also characterized Jackson’s interest in the job as “strong.”

There is a scenario in which former Lakers coach Phil Jackson would consider returning for a third stint with the team, sources said late Friday, but it will require executive VP Jim Buss once again relinquishing the organizational reins – and this time handing them to Jackson, rather than back to GM Mitch Kupchak.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the Lakers and Jackson met on Saturday, placing the odds of his return at “95 percent,” but that no job offer was extended.

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.

ESPN.com reported that Jackson, 67, is in good health.

Source close to Phil: “I can’t imagine this not working out. Phil’s health is fine now. That’s no issue at all. … Phil’s feisty. He gets feisty when he’s ready to coach. He likes this Lakers team.”

Meanwhile, USA Today Sports reported that D’Antoni, considered another leading candidate, had not been contacted by the Lakers.

“They’re focused on getting a deal done with (Jackson),” said the person, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Jackson had said that he planned to spent his retirement in Montana. ESPNDallas.com reported in 2011 that Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle was one of many voices who believed Jackson would pursue a comeback to the NBA.

“My belief is that he’ll retire for a while,” Carlisle said, “but I don’t know how long you can go to Montana and meditate and smoke peyote or whatever he does there. I don’t know. He’s going to get bored. And I mean that in an endearing way.”

His girlfriend, Jeanie Buss, is a Lakers executive and daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss.

17 comments
JimWagner
JimWagner

COME ON MAN !!!! GROW UP AND LIVE YOUR LIFE WITHOUT A KIDS GAME..THINK ABOUT SPENDING TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY....O...I FORGOT "GREED"

BillFerguson
BillFerguson

Isn't Phil Jackson Brett Farve's older half brother?

Wisconsin Death Trip
Wisconsin Death Trip

Money and travel issues to figure out, then a signature. No surprises here......YAWN....

Mr V
Mr V

I could win with that Lakers team!

 

Thomas28
Thomas28

Hey, it's LA.  Chew you up and spit you out.  What else do you expect?  Its all about money.

Chris8
Chris8

Lakers need to move FORWARD, not live in the past.  No doubt Jackson has been a great coach, but the guy can barely walk and frankly he's earned a retirement.  He gave them 5 championships, that's enough. 

JeremyWilliams
JeremyWilliams

A week or so ago. I DIDNT give up on LAKERS yet. but I was getting to that point where I thought the prospects of the season was looking bleak. I kinda lossed that burning desire I made sure I made time to sit down and watch whole games every time. Then they fire Brown and I thought wow this is something. Lets see how they play tonight.... WHOOO loved what I saw.... Looked forward to next game..... and now Phil high chances of coming back! CHAMP! ZEN MASTER Salute!

Don Mosebar
Don Mosebar

Jax comes back for 2 years,,I would GUESS..then after that, the Lakers rebuild around Howard and clean out a lot of contracts and sign some young , big name free agents. Then it's a matter of whether Phil's health holds up and how amenable he'd be to coaching a team that may not be championship level for a few years afterward. I don't think Kobe plays after his contract expires and it may well be that Jackson and he bow out together with Jax perhaps going to the Knicks or whatever other team strikes him as an interesting challenge.

EugeneSaxe
EugeneSaxe

I can't see why he'd come back.  Kobe has 2 years left-is he coming back/will Buss pay him/will he still be Kobe?  Does he think Nash is immortal?  Is he going to stick around if howard walks?

JamieBreslow
JamieBreslow

Jackson is coming back. There's no way they abruptly fire Brown without a contingency plan. They've probably known since Thursday that Jackson agreed to return, and solely out of respect for the much respected Brown, have they treated this like news.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @JimWagner It is now greedy to work at your chosen profession?  The wealth envy in this country has passed the point of ridiculous.   Oh, and apparently basketball is not just a kids game anymore.  Quite a few adults seem to make a decent living at it.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @Mr V No you could not and you are not getting the chance.

JosephStratton
JosephStratton

 @JamieBreslow "much respected"????  I don't think so.  He was never given a chance with a team that has been dealing with injuries and learning curve.  He was back-stabbed by Kobe.  He was fired after only 5 games.  If they respected Brown, I would hate to see how they would treat him if they didn't respect him.    The bottom-line is Brown was a terrible hire by the Lakers and their buyer's remorse got the better of them with time to salvage this team by playoffs. 

Mr V
Mr V

 @JoeCabot You're right I'm not, but yes I could.  Pass it to Kobe......that's the way Phil has ALWAYS coached!  Pass it to Michael.......pass it to Magic..........that's easy!!!

BOB25
BOB25

@JosephStratton @JamieBreslow

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

 @Mr V  @JoeCabot If it is that easy, please explain why it did not work in Chicago for Doug Collins, or in LA for Rudy Tomjanovich, Frank Hamblen, or Mike Brown, and why every year did not end with a championship in Chicago and LA for Phil Jackson.  If coaching were that easy, you might be doing some instead of fantasizing about it.   Oh, and when did Phil coach Magic?