How Much Cash It Will Take to Bring Phil Jackson Back to Lakers?

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 10, 2012

BOSTON - JUNE 10:  Head coach Phil Jackson talks to Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the game against the Boston Celtics during Game Four of the 2010 NBA Finals on June 10, 2010 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. 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)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

As close as Phil Jackson is to returning to the Los Angeles Lakers, nothing is set in stone.

Not yet.

Per Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers contacted Jackson immediately following their decision to part ways with Mike Brown.

With Los Angeles putting out its feelers, the preliminary groundwork had been laid. From there it was a matter of gauging Jackson's response and reacting to it.

Well, according to CSNBayAea.com's Ric Bucher, Jackson remains open to returning, as long as team executive vice president Jim Buss is prepared to relinquish the "organizational reins" he currently holds.

Anyone can see that there are potential pitfalls in this request. What executive is going to willingly concede any control or power he currently holds in favor of another?

Apparently Buss will, if we are to believe Bresnahan's latest report that reveals the Lakers are preparing to meet with Jackson just one day after relieving Brown of his coaching duties:

The Lakers are moving quickly toward hiring Phil Jackson as their next coach, with one person in the organization calling it a "95%" chance he will return for a third tour with the team.

The Lakers plan on meeting with Jackson on Saturday morning to make sure he is interested in the job. The unknown 5% in their equation is the chance Jackson doesn't want to fill the vacancy created by the Friday firing of Mike Brown, either because of health reasons or other unknown issues.

Almost needless to say, that 95 percent mark is a clear indicator that the organization, Buss included, is prepared to give Jackson what he wants.

But are they prepared to give him anything he wants?

Sure, power and control are a must, but there's another caveat—money.

Let's say that Jackson is prepared to return to the Staples Center. Let's assume that his health has improved to the point where he can travel with the team and be the perfectionist we all know him to be.

What—or rather, how much—is it going to take for him to officially take that leap of faith for the third time?

Obviously Jackson isn't in need of another pay day. He's had numerous ones courtesy of the Lakers alone.

Yet this extends well-beyond what he doesn't need and into the reality of what he deserves and, of course, what he ultimately wants.

When Jackson retired in 2011, he was earning $10 million annually. A lot of money? Yes, but that's not even where he peaked. The year prior, during the 2009-10 campaign, he was compensated at a rate of $12 million.

Expensive? You bet, but you get what you pay for, and Jackson was the best.

Therefore, it would be wise of us to assume he latches back onto the Lakers for between $10-$12 million a year or even less, right?

Wrong.

I understand Jackson is more than one season removed from the rigors of the NBA, but his going rate will need to be increased if he is to return to the sidelines.

Bear in mind that this is not only the franchise that asked him to take a $2 million pay cut after leading the team to a championship, but also the organization that rushed him out the door in 2011.

That's correct; after five championships and 11 years of service, Jackson was ushered out the door without so much as a second glance. The Lakers were swept in the second round of the playoffs by the Dallas Mavericks that year, so he was history; he was yesterday's news.

And according to Mark J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Jackson is going to remember what transpired like it was, in fact, yesterday.

Source close to PJax cont: "They kicked him to the curb. Now they are in the same position. Maybe worse."

— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) November 9, 2012

No, it's not as if they fired him, but it was hardly a fulfilling end to a prosperous tenure.

Now, however, Los Angeles is essentially graveling at Jackson's feet; he has all the leverage in this situation.

It's not him that led the Lakers to the worst start in the Western Conference. It's not him that is so desperate for someone to lead a cumbersome convocation of superstars. It's not him that needs to be saved.

It's the Lakers.

Subsequently, if he is to return to the hottest seat in the NBA, Los Angeles is going to have to reward him handsomely. Like historically handsomely. Like at least $13 million a year handsomely.

Not because Jackson needs or even wants that much. Not because he doesn't want to leave the comfort of retirement. Hell, not even because he deserves it. But rather, because he can ask for it, because he was the one who was mistreated and undervalued upon his departure.

And because according to Bresnahan, the team hasn't turned anywhere else, not even to Mike D'Antoni.

The Lakers have not contacted Mike D'Antoni, The Times has learned, increasing the already strong chances of the return of Phil Jackson.

— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 10, 2012

Which doesn't just give Jackson leverage anymore.

Los Angeles is in a market of one, leaving Jackson with complete control over the outcome of this ongoing saga, leaving him free to dictate the terms of this revolving marriage.

So the Lakers better be ready to pony up some serious cash, because there's nowhere else to turn.

After all, if there was, they wouldn't have willingly placed themselves at the mercy of a man who left with a bad taste in his mouth the first and second time around.