According to Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN, the organization elected to hire Mike D’Antoni to fulfill its coaching vacancy—a job that was available after Mike Brown was cut loose for leading the team to a pitiful 1-4 start.
While D’Antoni is familiar with point guard Steve Nash from their time together in Phoenix, his fast-paced system has never led to any serious playoff success. His best performances came when the Suns made it to (and lost) back-to-back Western Conference Finals in 2005 and 2006.
D’Antoni’s run as the leader of the Knicks was also largely unsuccessful, culminating in resignation after a poor start to the 2011-12 campaign and making the postseason just once during his three and a half seasons in New York.
Considering Jackson was instrumental in leading the Lakers to five NBA championships and is perhaps the only coach that fully understands superstar Kobe Bryant, it’s shocking to find that L.A. didn’t hire back the all-time great—especially given his reported interest in accepting the gig.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard and Shelburne noted that the 67-year-old was “stunned” to see D’Antoni given the job, and it’s hard to see the Zen Master finding the will to return to the NBA after the snub.
It’s clear that at his age, and with his health problems, Jackson would only leave retirement in order to have a legitimate shot at winning a championship. With the Miami Heat reigning supreme over the NBA, the Lakers—with a core of Nash, Bryant, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard—are the only team with a realistic chance to beat them in a seven-game series.
There would certainly be a number of franchises that would jump at the chance to hire Jackson, it’s highly unlikely that he’d consider any—barring a ‘Godfather’ offer that would have to include an eight-figure salary, near-total control of the basketball decisions and perhaps even a slice of ownership.
Will Jackson return to the NBA?
Unless the Heat absolutely collapse and fire coach Erik Spoelstra or the Lakers falter miserably under D’Antoni (who is making $12 million guaranteed over the next three years), there’s almost no chance we will see the Zen Master at courtside during the 2012-13 campaign.
With 11 titles under his belt and countless millions of dollars, Jackson can comfortably stay away from the game and still be widely regarded as one of the best coaches in NBA history.
Many Lakers fans aren’t happy with the hire of D’Antoni, but they shouldn’t expect Jackson to be walking through that door anytime soon, if ever again. By snubbing the Hall-of-Famer and choosing another candidate, the L.A. brass likely shut that door forever.