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Phil Jackson on returning to Lakers (‘I don’t think so’) and coaching Rockets (‘I mean. Um’)

Mar 3, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

Memorial Service For Los Angeles Lakers Owner Dr. Jerry Buss Getty Images

Only one thing will end rumors of Phil Jackson returning to coaching:

His death.

But Jackson is still kicking, answering questions at age 68 about when and where he might coach next.

Of course, the Lakers – with whom he was a candidate before they ultimately hired Mike D’Antoni – came up first. Jackson’s 11 championship rings make him intriguing in any role, even beyond coaching.

Jackson, in a Q&A with Sam Amick of USA Today:

Q: Is there any scenario where you get back in that mix? I’ve heard some chatter that you could become even more involved there, and there’s this idea that time heals all wounds and even though the way the coaching situation went down was botched that you could play a role, whether with (general manager) Mitch (Kupchak) in the front office or something else. Is that plausible at all?

A: I don’t think so. I have a good relationship with the vice president in business affairs (Jeanie Buss) — at least it has been pretty good (laughs). She’s dedicated to their family running the business and trying to feel what that’s like. Their father’s memorial service is not a year old, but he has been gone for a year now and they’re still just kind of figuring out, ‘How are we going to do this?’ So I think they want to have an opportunity to do it. And Mitch, obviously, has a relationship with (Lakers executive vice president of player personnel and Jeanie’s brother) Jimmy that has been going on since, I think, 2004 or so, when he started becoming really involved. So for the last 10 years, he and Mitch have been pretty much working together. (Late Lakers owner) Dr. (Jerry) Buss came in on things. We had a few issues. Kobe (Bryant) had an issue one year. We had an issue getting Pau (Gasol). Some of the major moves, Dr. Buss was still there. But the other stuff Jimmy and Mitch have been working on. They’ve got a relationship, so I don’t see that happening.

Q: You just took the wind out of the Lakers’ fans sails there…

A: I know, I’m trying not to gin up any hope in that direction. I don’t go to games. I keep encouraging them as fans to follow their team, and they’re having a hard time doing that. They’re not used to being in the position they’re in, so it’s tough.

Jackson has already coached the Lakers in two separate stints and tried to return for a third. I don’t think he’s lying when he says he thinks he’s done working for the franchise, but it’s hard to rule it out completely.

Maybe Jackson would succeed in a front-office role with Kupchak, and maybe that’s the type of less-physically demanding job Jackson would consider.

But his biggest appeal comes in coaching, where he’s a proven success. Any time a team nears its championship window, Jackson gets mentioned. It always seems at least a little appealing to hire a coach who’s won a championship in a majority of his seasons at the helm.

And the Houston Rockets certainly look like their championship window is opening. Led by Dwight Howard and James Harden with Chandler Parsons as an underrated third wheel, the Rockets are legitimate title contenders right now and young enough to remain that way for years.

Q: So considering the narrative on (Rockets coach) Kevin McHale has been that people wonder how long he wants to coach, do you have intrigue with that situation? I have to admit wondering that maybe you look at that like a do-over from what didn’t happen in LA with Dwight.

A: (Laughs). No, I. I’m sorry. I mean. Um, no. I don’t (pauses). I like that. That’s funny. I’ve got a (phone) call at 10 (a.m.) — how am I doing at time?

Amick: You’re running late. Thanks for the time, Phil.

Remember, Howard wanted the Lakers to hire Jackson, and Jackson had a gameplan in mind to take advantage of Howard’s skills. There was at least intrigue between the two a couple years ago.

The Rockets are well-coached, which is why they could win a championship this year. But when Phil Jackson is available, it’s always tempting – and he always stokes the rumors just enough to make you believe his return is possible.

  1. metalhead65 - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    if he wants to coach let him go to thr 76er ‘s or bucks. nowait the coaces they have are not done doing the hardwork of building those teams yet and they do not have his required 2 superstars. hey how about the knicks? wait they only have melo so that is a no. give the lakers a year or 2 to get a couple oflottry picks aand to sign some free agents and are ready to win before he decides to coach again.

    • asimonetti88 - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      Just curious, but who was the second superstar on the 05-06 Lakers? Smush Parker? Devean George? Or Chris Mihm?

  2. RavenzGunnerz - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    Come on man… His death?

  3. stayhigh_247 - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    I think Phil is done with coaching, theres nothing left for him to do. He’s given a great portion of his life to the NBA, I don’t see him coaching again.

  4. billtetley53 - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    Ravenz, have you read the average lakers fans post on here? That death quote isnt too far fetched. Mike D. is a decent coach, yet he’s not PJ, so they want him fired, thinking PJ is coming in, its recockulous.

    I’m so glad the lakers are in a prolonged down cycle, this delusional fanbase deserves it.

  5. 00maltliquor - Mar 3, 2014 at 10:48 AM

    I honestly don’t blame him. I’d want to burn the company too if everything was all but signed to work as the manager just to wake up and find out that they slided in the Pringles mascot through the back door late at night after I left and hired him instead of me.

  6. nflcrimerankingscom - Mar 3, 2014 at 11:59 AM

    Phil Jackson is 3″ taller than Howard? WTF?

    • cbking05 - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      He’s wearing heels

  7. norcal031 - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Yo As soon as Kobe retires, he is going to become the GM. and Phill will be back in some role. That has to be what is going on because this is a mess.

  8. savvybynature - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:13 PM

    The greatest coach in the modern era is ready to come out of retirement to help you win a championship and you say….naw, we’re good. We’re gonna hire Mike DÁntoni.
    Bwahahahahaha! Man, that was dumb. They could have kept Howard and at least been a playoff team this season, plus be a more attractive landing spot for free agents in the future. Bu tthey gave all that up because the new owner is too insecure to work with Phil. Inexcusable imo.

    • Professor Fate - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:27 PM

      The facts don’t support your speculation. Phil didn’t want to deal with the travel grind of the NBA any longer and Laker management wasn’t going to hire two coaches (Phil at home, someone else on the road) nor pay him $10M+ a year. That asking price was probably Phil’s way of telling the team he didn’t really want the job, but if they were going to give it to him anyway he’d certainly mull it over for a couple of days.

      Jim Buss hung him out to dry, but many Lakers observers doubted Jackson would have accepted the job. Brown was a mistake and so was D’Antoni. Kupchak is pretty good evaluating players and generally getting the ones he wants (and will likely have better luck now that Stern is gone), but the recent hires at HC haven’t been encouraging.

  9. csbanter - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:46 PM

    At 68 he’s too old for the daily grind of being an NBA coach. He has accomplished everything already, enjoy retirement, write books, go on the lecture circuit, live life.

    • asimonetti88 - Mar 3, 2014 at 12:57 PM

      Rick Adelman is 67 and Greg Popovich is 65

      • progress2011 - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:33 PM

        Well, I don’t want to be the only person to state the obvious……BUT it seems basic logic is necessary.

        Because a person is similar in age, doesn’t mean they have the same physical health and/or abilities.

        Ex: Greg Oden is 26 years old and has played 95 games

        Kevin Durant is 26 years old has played 520 games and is a friggin BOSS!

        Conclusion: Adelman and Pop are similar in age, to Phil but Phil’s days on the road are DONE! Dude looks like he is 88 (instead of 68) and moves like he is 108!

        Forget about it!

    • azarkhan - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:08 PM

      Jackson had chronic hip and knee problems and had knee replacement surgery, which was mainly why he resigned from coaching.

    • ryanaammess - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      I bet he ends up running a team somewhere. There were the rumors about Orlando, and when it looked like the Kings were moving to Seattle he was supposed to be the guy to run the basketball side of things.

  10. shadowgamesshades - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:26 PM

    Rockets do need a new coach, but I doubt Phil Jackson will come out of retirement. He has nothing more to prove. He won 11 rings as a coach, 6 with Chi-town, 5 with LA. I hope someone else runs the same system he ran.

    • asimonetti88 - Mar 3, 2014 at 4:54 PM

      It’s more than just the system. Kurt Rambis ran the triangle in Minnesota to little success.

  11. velocirep - Mar 3, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    Lol metalhead, my sentiments exactly.

    Don’t get me wrong, Phil is a great coach, but his legacy is bolstered by coaching the best players/teams, that were the best or had obvious potential to be the best before he ever got there. And being a lakers fan base legend only further overrates what he can actually do as a coaching personality.

    Thibs and Vogel are two very good examples of current coaches who excelled without a Jordan, Kobe or Shaq, but will never get anywhere near the accreditation they deserve in comparison to the onslaught of praise Philjax gets.

    Credit him for seeing the right situations and excelling in them, though I could easily name 5 lowered ranked coaches who I’d take hands down to take on an average team and make it a winner.

    There is no team fit for him to coach that doesn’t already have a good coach- Overrated

    • asimonetti88 - Mar 3, 2014 at 4:56 PM

      Thibs and Vogel are also two very good examples of coaches that do not have a championship, let alone 11 of them.

    • mackcarrington - Mar 3, 2014 at 8:16 PM

      Don’t forget that Phil won in the old Continental league before he came to the NBA.
      I can’t think of any legendary CBA players.

  12. roanboon - Mar 3, 2014 at 2:01 PM

    I think he would only coach a team if it had one of the league’s top 2 players (Lebron/Durant).

    He has always coached a team with either Jordan, Kobe or Shaq; and would probably insist on a similar scenario.

  13. velocirep - Mar 3, 2014 at 5:04 PM

    If they had Jordan or Kobe/Shaq I don’t think anyone could reasonably disagree that they wouldn’t have gotten those same rings Phil has I. His fingers

  14. velocirep - Mar 3, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    If Vogel or thibs had Jordan, Kobe or Shaq(or both) I’m sure everyone could agree that either coach would be wearing Phil Jackson’s rings.
    He had some special players. Rose with a blown knee and the new found superstar Paul George don’t even enter the same atmosphere as a healthy Jordan, Kobe or Shaq.

    Again, he’s a great coach, but overrated. He cannot takeover the bulls team today and do a better job than thibs let alone salvage the disaster in Lakerland like many are deluded to believe

  15. velocirep - Mar 3, 2014 at 9:16 PM

    He didn’t play at all in the knicks first championship run and was a bench player on their 2nd run AND lead the league in personal fouls.

    Thibs or Vogel would’ve lead his teams to championships, no question

    Rated over

  16. ranfan12 - Mar 4, 2014 at 7:26 PM

    Phil must be having a ball trolling the NBA…

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