Phil Jackson Returns to the Lakers
The Zen Master will reportedly become the highest-paid NBA coach in history:
Phil and Kobe, together again.
Phil Jackson is back with the Los Angeles Lakers following a breakup that took a year to mend, and back to coaching Kobe Bryant — a player he once called “uncoachable.”
“This is something I never thought could possibly happen,” Jackson said Tuesday at a Staples Center news conference. “It’s a pleasure to come back.”
Jackson, who won three championships with the Lakers in five years, was let go last June 18 by owner Jerry Buss — three days after the team lost to Detroit in the NBA Finals.
The buzz about Jackson’s possible return began almost immediately after his replacement, Rudy Tomjanovich, left in February, despite Jackson’s book detailing the 2003-04 season in which he made disparaging remarks about the franchise.
Bryant was at the top of that list.
“I think it’s a matter of trust, a matter of rebuilding the trust that we had,” Jackson said of his relationship with Bryant. “And yes, I have talked to Kobe; he actually called me this morning to congratulate me on the job. And I felt confident that he’s confident that we can go forward.”
Bryant’s reaction to a possible return by Jackson seemed lukewarm at best during the past several months. But Bryant released a more positive statement through his agent Tuesday.
“When the Lakers began the search for a new head coach, I put my complete trust in Dr. Buss and [general manager] Mitch Kupchak to select the person they thought was best for the Lakers’ organization,” Bryant said. “In Phil Jackson, they chose a proven winner. That is something I support.”
Was there any doubt that Jackson would return? He’ll be coaching the only team that really interests him. Kobe Bryant has Jordanesque skills and Lamar Odom, a tall and athletic forward, has the potential to thrive in the Triangle Offense. Most important, at this point, the entire Laker franchise is in desperation. Jackson can pose as the savior, attract the media attention that he craves, and enjoy psychological advantages over his exasperated players, who will now be more responsive to his every command.
He couldn’t have asked for a better scenario. And make no mistake: he will indeed carry Los Angeles back to the playoffs, though the team will struggle to advance against the likes of San Antonio.
Postscript: The announcement comes right before the third game of the championship series. But of course! Jackson had to try to overshadow the league’s elite.