Skip to content

The time Phil Jackson asked then GM Jerry West to leave the Lakers locker room

Jun 17, 2013, 5:26 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson answers questions at a post-game news conference following Game 4 of their NBA Western Conference semi-final basketball playoff against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas Reuters

Phil Jackson is unquestionably one of the greatest coaches of all time, but he didn’t get there by placating people or considering the feelings of others — especially those with seniority or who were holding down a higher-level position within the organization.

Speaking at an event last week where Jackson was plugging his latest book, he recalled the time he asked then Lakers general manager Jerry West — also one of the franchise’s all-time great players — to leave the locker room so Jackson and the team could be alone to dissect the night’s troubles in private.

From Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:

“The Lakers were really struggling, not enjoying playing together,” said Jackson. “The last five minutes of the game were arduous and painful — so I kicked everybody out of the locker room.

“Jerry and [then-assistant general manager] Mitch Kupchak would come into the locker room afterward … but I wanted it to be just us,” continued Jackson.  “So I asked everybody to leave and then I addressed the team and asked them what happened out there on the floor.”

“In the process, I know Jerry was hurt by me asking him to leave the room,” Jackson said. “It has always been what I’ve done any time it got intimate or personal, to ask people that were outside, trainers and ball boys in particular.”


This is believed to have occurred during the Lakers’ first run to a title under Jackson, in the Western Conference Finals back in 2000.

West is the farthest thing from a ballboy, obviously, and was right to have been offended at being excluded from the inner workings of the team. But that’s part of what made Jackson great, the ability to do what he thought was best for the teams he coached no matter who else stood in his way, or may have disagreed with his process in the slightest.

It’s also what made it so tough for the organization to consider bringing him back once they corrected the Mike Brown mistake early last season.

  1. cmehustle - Jun 17, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    Wow! Phil has balls as well as rings!

  2. reesesteel23 - Jun 17, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    Respectfully asking someone to leave the room so you can address your team in private isn’t much of a story………to me

    • cobra617 - Jun 17, 2013 at 6:39 PM

      I respectfully ask that you leave this comments section so we can work this out?

      Thanks. :-)

      But seriously, Phil can do this because of his resume. Anoyone else might have been fired.

      • mortymcfearson - Jun 18, 2013 at 1:00 PM

        Get back to me when Phil Jackson leads the Bobcats to a championship. Winning with Jordan and Shaq were not an accomplishments, they were expectations. He was just another coach once Jordan switched to baseball. Jordan is the Zen Master Maker.

        The only thing Phil Jackson did well was choose his teams.

      • Kurt Helin - Jun 18, 2013 at 1:56 PM

        Please point out to me the coach who won a title without great talent?

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 17, 2013 at 7:18 PM

      it is when that guy is the GM that hired you, a HOF’er, top 100 player all time and
      carries the nick name ” the logo ” but since you didn’t think it was much of a story
      I guess it doesn’t matter.

  3. pmx8411 - Jun 17, 2013 at 5:36 PM

    This guy still promoting his book i see…

  4. charlutes - Jun 17, 2013 at 5:46 PM

    He was right to be offended? So if your a great player then you’re automatically deemed a lifelong, active team member. Even though you’re actually an exec, who for some reason should get offended when a coach wants to talk to his players? okee.

    • cmehustle - Jun 17, 2013 at 5:58 PM

      Well I think its more the fact that he was Phil’s boss at the time. Or properly put, Phils bosses boss.

      • emosnar - Jun 17, 2013 at 7:07 PM

        So what.

      • emosnar - Jun 17, 2013 at 7:07 PM

        Bosses are overrated. I’ll take a great coach any day.

      • badintent - Jun 18, 2013 at 1:00 AM

        A boss is the same person that signs your paycheck. Just want to put that out there for those that have no freaking clue of what a boss does on Friday. Pathetic. And no paychecks for our fearless self employed Shark Tankettes.

    • zxrated - Jun 17, 2013 at 6:36 PM

      What most people don’t understand is that West was the peace keeper between Shaq and Kobe while Phil was the one fueling the drama by playing his zen mind tricks between them.

    • fanofevilempire - Jun 17, 2013 at 7:21 PM

      remember that exec as you call him, signed a center from Orlando and traded with Charlotte
      for the shooting guard from Lower Marion HS.

  5. mogogo1 - Jun 17, 2013 at 6:22 PM

    So, is there no circumstance when a coach could ask to talk to his team in private without the GM being in the room? I’ll take a guess that this wasn’t the first time West had been asked to leave a team meeting and that it wasn’t the last. This stuff must happen all the time.

  6. 00maltliquor - Jun 17, 2013 at 6:50 PM

    This seems like a total non-story. Just trying to promote his book, I guess. The headline was so much more juicier then the actual story.

  7. money2long - Jun 17, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    so does this mean ball boys sometimes know a team’s game plan at halftime

  8. sportfan2 - Jun 17, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    I’m sure when he ask he ask nicely. Probably nothing like GET YOUR ASS OUT’a HERE West.

  9. glink123 - Jun 17, 2013 at 7:22 PM

    Did they really correct “the Mike Brown mistake”? I highly doubt it. We’ll find out this season, based on where the Cavs and Lakers finish in the standings. With, or without DHoward, my money is on the Cavs.

  10. zxrated - Jun 17, 2013 at 7:38 PM

    Phil confirmed he ran off the best asset the Lakers ever had, Jerry West. Phil always burns his britches with his bosses. Jerry Buss was the one that had issues with Phil the most. Dr. Buss is the reason Phil will likely never have a stake in the Lakers FO and the question many Phil worshiping Laker fans need to ask themselves is, why does Phil not have a good relationship with the Bulls organization either?

    Does deja vu comes to mind anyone?!?

    • spursareold - Jun 18, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      So, Phil set his pants on fire in front of West?

    • davidly - Jun 18, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      All the situation in those two cities points out is that there may have been a couple of times when an NBA owner sided with the GM over PJ.

      So while it may be true that it has cost him a front office job, it’s only because he’s not an @ss-kisser, not because he wouldn’t be good at team management.

      And, anyway, Jerry did hire him twice. That says something.

    • mackcarrington - Jun 18, 2013 at 6:00 PM

      “Burns his britches”?… man that is HILARIOUS!!!!!!

  11. 13arod - Jun 17, 2013 at 8:16 PM

    That’s a good way to get fired

    • jimbo75025 - Jun 18, 2013 at 4:40 AM

      Yeah right. The guy has more rings than fingers. The GM that fired Phil Jackson over some perceived slight and brought in another coach who did not produce would most likely be looking at the unemployment line themselves.

      The best bosses are the ones who appreciate that competant employees which do not have to micromanaged are a blessing and allow them to be more effective in their own jobs. God knows how many times I have indicated to bosses that I wanted some space to explore a tangential solution to an issue. If you have a history of producing (and Phil did) then you usually get some room to follow your gut a bit.

  12. hatesycophants - Jun 17, 2013 at 9:06 PM

    The world would stop turning on its axis if we didn’t have bootlickers to balance things out. Thanks, guys!

  13. lovesthebj - Jun 17, 2013 at 10:09 PM

    There are times when teammates need to be able to speak frankly and call each other out or admit to not playing well. It can be divisive or it can make guys accountable, but it might not happen at all if the guys who make trades and sign contracts are in the room.

  14. davidly - Jun 18, 2013 at 5:11 AM

    I wouldn’t say that he was “right to be offended”, but understand why he might have been. Still, at the end of the day, execs don’t belong hanging around the lockerroom, in my opinion, and I think most teams understand that. That’s not to say they shouldn’t address players and coaches, etc, just that there is a place for that outside the lockerroom.

  15. spursareold - Jun 18, 2013 at 10:21 AM

    Realistically, this may be the event that led to the crap-tastic roster that the Lakers now have. West left, and Upchuck has been screwing the pooch ever since.

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (2356)
  2. K. Irving (2084)
  3. A. Davis (1827)
  4. K. Bryant (1456)
  5. L. James (1438)
  1. A. Aminu (1348)
  2. K. Durant (1321)
  3. M. Leonard (1313)
  4. T. Thompson (1226)
  5. E. Mudiay (1170)