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Lakers handling of Phil Jackson, coaching search a jumbled mess

Nov 12, 2012, 9:06 AM EDT

Phil Jackson AP

You can make a good case why not to hire Phil Jackson as the Lakers coach right now — maybe he wanted too much money, or he wanted too much control over the roster, or the triangle offense was not a good mid-season replacement for the Lakers (it is too hard to pick up on the fly), or the idea he didn’t want to travel to all road games (something both sides deny now, even though Jackson suggested it last time he was with the Lakers).

You can make a case that Mike D’Antoni can win in Los Angeles.

But the Lakers handled it all with what felt like knee-jerk reactions (as they did the Mike Brown firing) — the Lakers reportedly told Jackson he could have the job if he wanted it and Monday he was going to decide. Then Sunday night they pulled the rug out from under him and chose D’Antoni to be the coach, reports Ramona Shelburne of

There are a whole lot of reasons being thrown around as to why but the abrupt shift but they still all show an erratic and unsteady ownership hand at the helm.

You don’t tell someone the job is theirs if they want it to just change your mind. (It wasn’t just Jackson who got that impression, both D’Antoni and Mike Dunleavy, the other phone interview, got that impression.) You don’t go that far down the road with Jackson — and watch the Lakers fan base get excited about him to the point of “we want Phil” chants at Lakers games — only to pull the rug out from under him. Because you should have known he would ask for a lot, especially if he thought he had leverage. And clearly he thought that. And you had to know he was the fans’ choice.

There were some around the Lakers who were spinning Sunday night into Monday morning that Jackson demanded too much money plus had discussed not traveling with the team to all the road games. From the Los Angeles Times:

Jackson was the overwhelming favorite to return to the Lakers until they heard his informal demands, which included a stake in team ownership, according to a person familiar with the situation.

“He was asking for the moon,” said the person, who also declined to be identified because they are not authorized to discuss the situation.

The next day both sides — Jackson’s and the Lakers — denied this was the case. Both said there had not been much real negotiation. Maybe yes, maybe no. Certainly Jackson has long wanted the control of the team and has said in the past he wanted to lessen his travel (he was weary of the grind of being an NBA coach).

This much we know — Jackson’s agent was set to sit down with the Lakers Monday and negotiate and if a deal could be struck Jackson was expected to accept.

If you are the Lakers, why go through all the first dancing with Jackson, telling him he can have the job then saying before the real negotiating session he was asking for too much?

Because you really wanted D’Antoni. Whether you knew it all along or came to that decision through the process, the Lakers figured out they wanted D’Antoni.

And there are logical reasons to do that — the triangle offense is not something you can throw together mid-season, especially without Dwight Howard and Steve Nash knowing how to run it, for one. Money is another.

But this was not handled well.

With Mike Brown, there is nothing the Lakers management could have learned in five injury-filled, modified-rotations games that they didn’t feel in their guy in July. If Brown wasn’t the guy, they should have realized it and moved on much sooner than they did.

Same with Jackson — you knew he would cost an arm and a leg before you picked up the phone, you knew the triangle offense would be hard to pickup in-season before you called him. So why go way down that road and make him a fan favorite before you kill it?

The Lakers don’t feel like the steady ship they once did.

  1. dh1018 - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:22 AM


  2. konichiwabtches - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:31 AM

    Definitely a WTF don’t do that to a guy that won you 5 championships

  3. benhameen - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    All those rings and championship history D’Antoni has I mean why wouldn’t you sign him? Oh wait that was Phil.

  4. socalgal64 - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:38 AM

    Jesus, were you drunk when you wrote this?

  5. miamatt - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:39 AM

    The Lakers, based on history, deserve the benefit of the doubt. But…. as a Heat fan, I just breathed a sigh of relief.

    • 1heatedtoombrayduh - Nov 12, 2012 at 10:18 AM

      man if i could give this 1 million thumbs up I would..

      i was really biting my nails when i heard phil’s name being thrown around and i just KNEW hed be coaching by tomorrow.

      In the back of my head i was like pleas get ‘antoni, please get ‘antoni..

      and no that is not a typo I said ‘antoni, because this guy doen not believe in D LOL!

      • guyaneserj - Nov 14, 2012 at 6:00 PM


  6. hwatt - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    Either the family leadership genes skipped his generation, or the succession plan could have used more work…

    I just like the part where Phil said “I’m not getting on any planes this year”. I get the sentiment of telecommuting for office jobs, but I guess the owners weren’t ready for a telecommuting coach.

    They could have built him an Optimus Prime mech suit to be on the court and he could have telecommuted into that. That would have been awesome.

  7. isujames - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:53 AM

    @^^ Why???

  8. mjbulls45 - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:55 AM



    biggest slap in the face to real basketball fans who wanted to see phil work the triangle with the LA big 3 now,

    right now pat riley and the heat are running things, lakers take a backseat.

    • paleihe - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:52 AM

      “Real”. LOL.

      • mjbulls45 - Nov 13, 2012 at 5:12 PM

        i hope ur not a dude who uses “lol”

        man card revoked.

        (only time to use lol is with females leading to game time)

  9. fiyeaglesfiy - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:58 AM

    Now don’t get me wrong, I like Mike D’Antoni. He would have been my second choice had Phil Jackson decided that he didn’t want to come back to coaching. But indications were that he was willing and expecting to return, which makes not waiting for the winningest coach of all time, who has been able to get the most out of superstars and big personalities throughout his career, a huge mistake and another casualty to Jim Buss’s ego. This is a win now team and you have the chance to bring in Phil Jackson to coach. Here are my rebuttals on the reasons to go with D’Antoni over Phil.

    1. The players struggled to pick up the Princeton offense which is a similar read and react to the triangle that Phil would install. Rebuttal – the Princeton offense was designed for less athletic players to exploit mis-matches at the college level and has never proven successful at the pro-level. The triangle offense under Phil, has led to 11 NBA championships over the past 2 decades. 2 of your star players have already had success and are familiar with it. Those who say Dwight Howard is a bad fit for the triangle, see Shaquille O’Neal.

    2. Steve Nash is a bad fit under the triangle offense. Rebuttal – I have none, he’ll be much more effective under D’Antoni than he would under Phil. Although his shooting ability would be welcome in the offense. But at this point in his career, he’s a role player, and you don’t tailor your offense to role players. Kobe, Pau, and Dwight would better serve the triangle. The Lakers lack the speed and 3 point shooting to effectively run D’Antoni’s system.

    3. Phil wanted too much. Rebuttal – he won you 5 championships, he deserves it. Include him on personnel decisions. Give him $10 mil a year. If he wants to let his assistants fill in on road trips, fine. Regular season games don’t matter much to this team anyway, in April and May you can bet Phil would be traveling with the team.

    Good luck Mike, Jim Buss put you in a tough spot with these fans.

  10. libertynchurch - Nov 12, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    Phil has to take some hits on this, too. Looks like he overplayed his hand.

    How does all of this relate to signing D.Howard? Is Flip-Flopping contagious?

  11. mogogo1 - Nov 12, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    Phil was very smart to demand special terms, simply because making the Lakers agree to them would have assured nobody would be meddling with him. Buss the Younger isn’t his father and I don’t think anybody knows for sure what he’s going to do from one minute to the next. And given his primary objective seems to be proving he’s not his father, it’s kind of remarkable he even entertained the idea of hiring Phil Jackson. I get he wants to make his own way, but some of his moves seem to be nothing but doing the opposite of what his dad would have done just to prove he’s his own man. Problem with that is his dad made lots and lots of very sound decisions. He’s going to need to realize that if they’re going to succeed under his tenure.

  12. mrheavychevy - Nov 12, 2012 at 10:34 AM

    Jim Buss has to retarded & dumb as a box of rocks

  13. hwatt - Nov 12, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    I guess that hatchet isn’t exaclty ‘buried’ between Phil and Buss…

  14. maddogg911 - Nov 12, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    Jim buss and Phil playing a high stakes game of poker. Buss called Phil’s bluff. At the end if the day, these lakers have the personnel to win a championship regardless of who’s coaching them. Lakers 2012!!!

    • miamatt - Nov 12, 2012 at 10:58 AM

      Buss may have one the poker game, but it’s hard to argue that the Lakers aren’t the big losers here. I’m not saying they can’t win a championship with D’antoni, but seriously… is there a single Lakers fan among you who did a fist pump and said, “YES!!!” when you heard the news this morning? Be honest, now.

      • sdlakerfan - Nov 13, 2012 at 10:25 AM

        this 45 yr Laker fan shrugged and said to himself, “at least it wasn’t Dunleavy”. Most of us Laker fans were surely hoping for Phil. With that said, I think we should be open minded about D’antoni. Surely did some amazing things with the Suns. Comparisons to Westhead may be somewhat legit given their tendencies towards high octane offenses. But don’t forget – Westhead won the championship in his first year as Lakers coach. Don’t know why nobody thinks the Lakers can win it without Phil – an obvious fallacy.

  15. mazblast - Nov 12, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    Jim buss and Phil playing a high stakes game of poker. Buss called Phil’s bluff.
    Exactly. Buss messed up the Brown firing, but played his hand correctly against Phil’s demands (which would only have escalated if he’d taken the job). Zen Master (and all his BS) was outsmarted by an idiot.

    • eventhorizon04 - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:45 AM

      Zen Master is only outsmarted if the Lakers win a championship without him.

      Not saying he didn’t lose, but we won’t know for sure until we see how the Lakers do.

    • hwatt - Nov 12, 2012 at 12:41 PM

      Yeah it probably would have gotten worse, he’s already with Buss’s daughter, if you let the guy have another foot officially in the front office how long before Phil tries to fully make himself the final word in the whole organization and kick Buss Jr to the curb.

    • lucky5936 - Nov 12, 2012 at 1:55 PM

      Jackson has won more championships than all of the current NBA head coaches put together by a count of 11 to 7. I know Phil wanted the moon, but he is a proven commodity. The Laker’s window of opportunity is not going to last long enough for Buss to get that championship he thinks he can win without Jackson. They went all in with their roster additions this year. They should have allowed Jackson to come in and guide this team while training his successor.

    • kehnn13 - Nov 12, 2012 at 2:56 PM

      My assumption is that Phil wasn’t bluffing. He’s accomplished everything he wanted to in the NBA. Why would he come back if they didn’t give him everything he wanted. Lakers should have realized this before they even spoke to him…

  16. abchome - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:20 AM

    Next year the lakers will need to pay twice to get phil back, and pay 2 coaches no longer working for them.

  17. paulhargis53 - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    mad: You’re wrong. The Lakers don’t have a decent enough bench to be contenders.

    3 starters in 34 and up. 1 starter at 32.

    Best bench player a 1 dimensional 36.

    Yesterday every laker fan loved Phil, now you don’t need him anyway?

    God I hate a majority of laker fans.

  18. metalhead65 - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:46 AM

    I am a little confused here. am I supposed to feel sorry for jackson that the lakers. a team I despise did not bow down to his every wish and demand? hey phil if you really want to cement your legacy as the greatest coach go run the bobcats and make them winners or one of the other lousy franchises out there. otherwise please go back to your ranch and shut up!

    • oldskool0037 - Nov 12, 2012 at 1:28 PM

      I’m pretty sure Phil’s legacy is intact without having to coach the Charlotte Bobcats. Sometime about 11 championships (2 of which were with a rebuilt Laker’s team) might say this guy’s a winner. Just saying…

  19. davidly - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    I suspect PJ just wanted what he has all along, going back to when he left Chicago: a position in the front office with job security, ie. part ownership.

    The other factors involved would have been because it wouldn’t make sense to fire a coach and simply replace him with a new GM.

    So PJ offered to coach the home games in exchange for the aforementioned operations say-so, including naming his co-coach and successor, who’d’ve taken over the complete head coaching position beginning next season.

    For whatever reason, the Lakers never wanted to promote PJ.

    As far as this season goes, though, it doesn’t matter. They don’t have the players to win it all right now, no matter who the coach is.

  20. scalfor3 - Nov 12, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    Nice to see someone stand up to Jackson. He’s a great coach, but god what a pompous ass.

  21. pricejustin24 - Nov 12, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    Billy Madison > Jim Buss

  22. lakerwoman - Nov 12, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    I feel sick about the way Jim Buss handled this. You don’t tell someone the job is their’s if they want it and then hire someone else at 11:30 pm on a Sunday night. Just plain awful.
    It smells as bad as the handling of “The Decision” by LeBron James.

  23. clickablecontent - Nov 12, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    Everyone calm down. This article is based on one major presupposition: That the Lakers made a real offer to Phil Jackson. That was only rumor. Quote: “…the Lakers REPORTEDLY told Jackson he could have the job…” All the information isn’t out – and if both Jackson and Lakers are saying there hasn’t been much negotiation – it definitely means an offer wasn’t made.

    • kehnn13 - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:01 PM

      If the artical is truthful, I have a hard time agreeing with you.

      First the quote from Ramona Shelburne- Source says Phil Jackson was “stunned” when he was informed the Lakers had chosen D’Antoni. Had been told it was his job to turn down.

      Then the statement that (It wasn’t just Jackson who got that impression, both D’Antoni and Mike Dunleavy, the other phone interview, got that impression.)

      Sounds like more than a rumor to me.

      • kehnn13 - Nov 12, 2012 at 3:01 PM

        grrr, article…sure wish there was an edit function

  24. glink123 - Nov 12, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    good article. agree with all of it. you dont run a billion dollar franchise like this.

  25. geo59 - Nov 12, 2012 at 11:15 PM

    The Lakers management problems have been apparent for the last 2 years. That same time period coincides with Jerry Buss handing the reins over to his son Jim. The guy (Jim) is destroying a great franchise and needs to be “fired”. This latest fiasco with Phil will end up being the reason the Lakers don’t make it out of the west. D’Antoni couldn’t make it work in NY and won’t in LA either. He’s a good guy and good coach but not a great coach.

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