Phil Jackson, Take 3.
And what better man for the job than the same man who has already led the Lakers to five championships; the same man whom Kobe Bryant himself publicly supports and the same man whom Dwight Howard has already asked for?
Paging Mr. Jackson.
Actually, there's no need to, because according to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers already have:
The Lakers have officially contacted Phil Jackson to gauge his interest in coaching them, The Times has learned.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) November 10, 2012
Of course, we saw this coming, but it's encouraging to know that Los Angeles isn't messing around. Sure, there are other worthy prospects available, yet reaching out to Jackson immediately after the coaching vacancy was created was the right (borderline necessary) thing to do.
But will Jackson be amenable to a return? Will he opt to come out of the easy-going life that is retirement and enter the hectic fray of a Lakers championship push? Will he return to the sidelines for the organization that rushed him out of his post less than two years ago?
The rate at which this potential reunion is moving is staggering. Bresnahan also reports that the Lakers are preparing to meet with Jackson merely 24 hours after firing Brown:
The Lakers are moving quickly toward hiring Phil Jackson as their next coach, with one person in the organization calling it a "95 percent" 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 five percent 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.
The swiftness behind Los Angeles' decision to act has undoubtedly caught us off-guard.
What's even more shocking, though, is that (per Bresnahan once again) the team only seems to have eyes for Jackson, as it has not contacted Mike D'Antoni—who was believed to be a favorite—about the position.
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
Astonishing? You bet. D'Antoni has a history of success with Steve Nash and is a known favorite of Kobe's, so the fact that he is on the shelf and hasn't at least been contacted is surprising.
What's this all mean, though?
That the Lakers are progressing toward bringing Jackson back for a third term, provided he is actually keen on what the team is presenting.
As CSNBayArea.com's Ric Bucher previously reported:
There is a scenario in which former Lakers coach Phil Jackson would consider returning for a third stint with the team, sources said late Friday, but it will require executive VP Jim Buss once again relinquishing the organizational reins—and this time handing them to Jackson, rather than back to GM Mitch Kupchak.
One source described the possibility of Jackson returning, should a suitable offer be made, as “strong.”
So there you have it. Jackson is open to returning to the sidelines in Los Angeles for a third stint. It's now up to the Lakers to make it happen.
Or rather, up to Jim Buss to make it happen.
Merely reaching out to Jackson and expressing interest or offering him the job is not enough. They have to give him what he wants, which, as Bucher eloquently puts it, are the "organizational reins."
Will deferring such responsibility, such power, be difficult for Buss to do?
Well, to put it bluntly, hell yes.
It's never easy for anyone—players, coaches, front-office personnel alike—to relinquish power. Doing so is as good as admitting that there's someone better than you for the job.
But in this case, it's necessary. Not only have Jackson's coaching methods been league tested, but they've been Los Angeles tested, too. Not to mention Kobe approved.
And that's huge.
Jackson's ability to earn instant respect from his players, a virtue Alex Kennedy of HOOPSWORLD reported that Brown didn't possess, makes it a given the current Lakers will buy into his triangle offense.
It's that ability that ensures he will be able to keep this team motivated defensively.
It's also that ability that guarantees he can right this sinking ship and transform Los Angeles into the immediate contender it was supposed to be.
So why not give him free rein? Why not do whatever it takes to bring back the coach who will render the Lakers' early-onset struggles an unfortunate occurrence of the past? Why not go back to what works, what you know is going to work?
Should Jim Buss give unconditional control of the Lakers to Phil Jackson?
I don't have an answer for that. Any of that.
Because there isn't one.
Jackson is the one who can fix this; he is the one who can make this complex entity work.
And if all it takes for him to commission his magic is an assurance that Buss is prepared to swallow his pride and let inevitable success run its course, then so be it.
After all, we're talking about the difference between a team embarking on an extensive quest to find an identity and instant gratification.
Which makes such a concession a smaller than diminutive price to pay.