After a weekend courtship of legendary coach Phil Jackson in hopes that he would accept a third stint with the team, the Los Angeles Lakers hired offensive wizard Mike D'Antoni instead. Rumor has it that Jackson was highly interested and even in the lead for the job, but wanted to set his own rules for how many road games he attended, his salary and for certain basketball decisions.
Now that D'Antoni has been hired, a report by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports suggests that Jackson used his high demands simply to humiliate Lakers VP Jim Buss, son of owner Dr. Jerry Buss.
After all, the two men supposedly don't get along very well, so maybe Jackson did make such high demands just so that he could have alpha dog status in the relationship between the two. The fact that Jackson dates Buss's sister Jeanie only further adds to the drama between both parties.
However, I am here to tell you that the idea of Jackson setting such high demands to humiliate Buss is absolutely ridiculous. The man is 67-years-old and just seems mature enough that he would not sink to such a level.
Now, let's look at two of Jackson's demands that popped up during weekend negotiations: less travel and a high salary. The lenient travel requirements make sense, as an 82-game season must surely be exhausting and Jackson has had heart problems in the past.
Combine the extensive travel during a standard NBA season with the stress of coaching, and it's no wonder that Jackson would want to take the occasional road game off. It's not an ideal situation, but one that works for Jackson, whose status as an NBA legend affords him certain negotiating power.
That said, let's move onto Jackson's salary demands. According to Wojnarowski, the Hall of Famer wanted to be the highest-paid coach in the league.
Let me put it this way. If an NBA coach who has won 11 championship rings manning the sidelines, nine of which have come via the very rare three-peat, comes to you and makes that type of demand, the answer is to ALWAYS give him his money.
The fact is that both the Lakers and Jackson wanted a reunion to happen, but it just didn't make sense financially for the Lakers to commit so much money to the man who guided the team to five titles. Keep in mind, the team has quite a bit of money tied up in its players, from $27 million owed to Steve Nash over the next three seasons to nearly $60 million owed to Kobe Bryant over the next two.
Also, let's not forget that GM Mitch Kupchak will probably make a big push to re-sign Dwight Howard either this season or over the summer, when the All-Star center is set to hit free agency.
More importantly, let's look at Jackson's coaching history as a whole. He has 20 years of head coaching experience with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
That said, think of how many times the man has walked away from the game, vowing each time that he was done. It first occurred in 1998, after the Bulls beat the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals and Michael Jordan retired. Jackson said that he was done, but returned to coach the Lakers just a year later.
Did Phil Jackson want to humiliate Jim Buss?
Fast forward to 2004, when the Shaquille O'Neal-Kobe Bryant feud was so bad that it led to the team getting destroyed by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals. Sure enough, Jackson stepped down after the drama got to be too much. A year later, he rejoined the Lakers as head coach.
Thus, Jackson clearly has a passion for coaching. As an ex-high school athlete, I can't tell you how many times I've missed being on the field or just playing the game. Who's to say that retired coaches don't have the same itch from time to time?
That all being said, Wojnarowski's idea that Jackson wanted to humiliate Jim Buss during the negotiating process is just plain ridiculous. He made a high salary demand, which his 11 championship rings allow him to do, and team management simply did not feel they could justify giving a coach that much money.
If anyone in this dance was humiliated, it was Jackson after being labeled a front-runner for the job from the get-go, only to have it snatched away by Mike D'Antoni at the 11th hour.