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Phil Jackson says he had handshake deal that he could decide on Lakers job Monday

Nov 12, 2012, 7:12 PM EST

Kobe Bryant And Phil Jackson Address The Media Getty Images

Phil Jackson is telling his side of the story.

Or, at least the public side of it.

He released a statement Monday night that confirms part of what the Lakers have said — that this was a basketball decision not a move made because of salary, time off or other requests — but it also shows that Jackson was among the many caught off guard by the Lakers hiring of Mike D’Antoni. And that the Lakers didn’t handle this professionally.

Here is the statement, courtesy Dave McMenamin of ESPNLA.com.

Saturday morning, Jim Buss, called to ask if he could come and visit,” Jackson said in a prepared statement released on Monday evening.

“I did not solicit or ask for the opportunity, but I welcomed both he and Mitch Kupchak into my home to discuss the possibility of my return to the Lakers as the head coach. We talked for over an hour and a half. No contractual terms were discussed and we concluded with a hand shake and an understanding that I would have until Monday (today) to come back to them with my decision.

“I did convey to them that I did have the confidence that I could do the job. I was awakened at midnight on Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D’Antoni to a 3-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team.

“The decision is of course theirs to make.

“I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker Fans who endorsed my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.”

Well played saying it was the fans bringing you back, Phil.

It also continues to give the feeling that this was a hastily arrived at decision for the Lakers. First, if you are going to fire your sitting coach with the season underway you do some back-channel communication to see if your main targets are interested already. You don’t fire and then be left trying to find somebody.

Second, it just feels wrong to tell Jackson he has until Monday to make a decision — his agent had taken a red eye out to Los Angeles for the Monday meeting — then turn around and make a midnight call on Sunday saying your are out. It’s not professional. Jackson’s agent agreed, saying that to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLA.com.

I still think D’Antoni over Jackson could be the right call for the Lakers, but they have handled this entire coaching change poorly.

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