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LA Lakers: Where Would the Lakers Be If Phil Jackson Was Still the Coach?

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 12:  Head coach Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers at American Airlines Center on March 12, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Evan BarnesContributor IIIJanuary 20, 2012

If Phil Jackson was still coaching the Lakers, would things be any different?

The better question is: "Why is this an idea?"

Just because the Lakers have shown quite a few struggles, especially on the road, it’s not time for a panic button or to start wild speculation. Phil Jackson isn’t needed to save the day when, perhaps, him leaving was the best thing for this group.

By the end of last season, he had already lost Pau Gasol, who he famously lost patience with against Dallas. He couldn’t inspire the team to play together for one more deep run. And plus, he was already halfway out himself toward retirement, content in his work and knowing he had done all he could.

As head coach, Mike Brown has done more than a passing job. He has inspired his players to become focused on defense, and given the lack of adequate practice time, he’s doing what he can with what he’s been given.

Is he perhaps working the team too hard, as some have suggested? Perhaps. Yet he knows he’s walked into a team that has a sense of urgency and high expectations after how last season ended.  

The reason the Lakers have struggled has nothing to do with coaching. It’s because they lack consistent scoring on the perimeter, a proven ball handler and consistent depth. It’s because they’re facing a see-saw battle with Father Time as one of the oldest teams in the league.

They have a mix of proven veterans and inexperienced youth. While Kobe Bryant has shown he can still light up the scoreboard, there’s no telling who will be there alongside to carry the load for four quarters.


For all of Phil Jackson’s strengths, developing players was not known as one of them. In a year where young legs are everything, how would Darius Morris, Josh McRoberts, Devin Ebanks and Andrew Goudelock have fared in a Phil Jackson system?

Not only is Mike Brown playing them, but they’ve contributed where they can. Are there weaknesses? Yes, but it’s better to often play through it than worry about the quick hook.

Phil Jackson’s wisdom is still valuable, as his recent contact with Lamar Odom shows. But in terms of coaching, the Lakers need a new direction, and the path to which Mike Brown is trying to lead them will ultimately benefit the team this year and beyond.

So while it may be interesting to speculate where the Lakers would be with Phil Jackson still around, it wouldn’t be any prettier. They’d most likely still be in the same position or a bit worse.

For the team to get any better, they have to look in the mirror, and the front office has to explore finding some cheap help quick, preferably at the point-guard position.

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