5 Teams Where Phil Jackson Might Still End Up as Coach
Whatever the reality of all the "he said, he said" business may be, the fact is that Phil Jackson will not succeed Mike Brown as the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Don't expect the Zen Master to simply drift into retirement, though. He showed an itch to return to the NBA this past summer, when he was approached by the Orlando Magic and the Portland Trail Blazers, albeit not necessarily to stalk the sidelines again.
If anything, the latest chapter in Jackson's ongoing tiff with Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and team executive vice president Jim Buss might've further stoked the fire in Phil's belly to get back into the coaching game.
And if P-Jax is willing to teach the Triangle offense and show off his 11 rings again, you can bet there will be at least a handful of teams willing to cast their lot with the most successful coach the sport has ever seen.
Surely, Jackson will return the favor with a receptive ear, assuming the price is right.
New York Knicks
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The New York Knicks are off to a perfect 5-0 start—their best since 1993-94, their last full season to appear in the NBA Finals—with double-digit victories each time out. The team seems to be clicking, with Carmelo Anthony carrying the scoring load, a cast of cagey veterans lending their services and every player on the roster giving his all on the defensive end for head coach Mike Woodson.
But it's still early, and the expectations for this team will only grow as they continue to rack up wins in an Eastern Conference that's thin at the top. The onus will be on Woodson to keep his squad playing at a high level through the spring of 2013 and beyond.
Because, frankly, the Knicks are stuck with their current roster, for better or worse. According to Basketball Reference, the Knicks are due to be significant payers of the league's luxury tax until the summer of 2015, when everyone except Steve Novak and Raymond Felton slides off the cap.
Woodson has fared well so far, though his fitness to lead the Knicks to a title remains to be seen. He's been to the playoffs four times as a coach but has yet to advance past the second round.
Should Woodson falter at some point during the next three years, don't be surprised if Jackson's name comes into play as that of a potential replacement. He spent 10 years of his career as a player in the Big Apple and earned his first taste of championship glory as a role player under legendary coach Red Holzman in 1973.
Ironically enough (in hindsight, anyway), Jackson's name came up as a coaching candidate once Mike D'Antoni resigned his post at Madison Square Garden last season. If Woodson gets the boot at some point, it'd be shocking if the Zen Master, with his knack for coaching egotistical stars and his affinity for the Knicks, didn't receive at least a phone call from much-maligned team owner James Dolan.
Many of the same arguments regarding a Phil Jackson homecoming in New York apply to the Brooklyn Nets. He closed out his playing career after two seasons with the Nets, back when they were still in New Jersey, though he never came close to claiming a title there.
The organization finds itself in a bind all too similar to that of its Manhattan rival. Like the Knicks, the Nets are capped out for quite some time, though their window won't likely reopen until the summer of 2016.
In the meantime, the Nets will have to make do with a solid (if unspectacular) core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Gerald Wallace. Their coach, Avery Johnson, has been to the NBA Finals before, but along the way, he has earned himself a reputation as a control freak who tends to grind on his players over time.
And his first two seasons with the Nets yielded a record of 46-102...so there's that.
The Little General will have his opportunity to succeed with Brooklyn's pricey new roster. But if he doesn't magically transform the Nets into a contender in the East in short order—and team owner Mikhail Prokhorov is forced to tie the knot as a result—he's likely to get the ax.
Given the Russian magnate's deep pockets (and proven willingness to dig into them), it only figures that he'd go chasing after Jackson and show him enough dough to pique the Zen Master's interest.
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Before Phil Jackson led the Chicago Bulls to six titles in eight glorious seasons, it was Doug Collins who tried (in vain) to rein in Michael Jordan and push his burgeoning team past the Detroit Pistons in the East.
As it happens, Collins is currently attempting to elevate another young roster to bigger and better things, this time with the Philadelphia 76ers. He goaded his squad to the brink of the Eastern Conference Finals last season, though he had Derrick Rose's untimely knee injury to thank for that.
It'll be one thing for the Sixers to tread water with Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young carrying the load, but it's another if they can't assert themselves in the East once Andrew Bynum finally takes the floor.
Jackson knows a thing or two about Drew. After all, he coached Bynum to two titles with the Lakers, and the All-Star center still abides by the Zen Master's teachings.
Keep in mind, too, that new Sixers owner Josh Harris has more than enough money in the bank to paper over his coaching problem in a hurry.
Assuming Collins' presence becomes such a problem, anyway.
Los Angeles Clippers
If Phil Jackson is truly as put off by the Lakers' handling of their head-coaching situation as his conversation with Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times would suggest, then maybe, just maybe, he'll look to stick it to the Purple and Gold at his next stop.
What better way to do that than by taking up with the Clippers? They share the Staples Center with the Lakers, sporting arguably the better overall roster of the two.
And most importantly, they employ a coach in Vinny Del Negro, who's still on the hot seat despite overseeing the highest single-season winning percentage and the third playoff series victory in franchise history.
Of course, much (if not most) of the credit goes to the efforts of the All-Star duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. With those two comfortable together and with the bench ranking among the deepest in basketball, these Clips could (and probably should) contend for a spot in the Western Conference Finals.
And if they don't, the Clips front office figures to make a change.
The biggest hangup to P-Jax taking the job? Money—more specifically, Clips owner Donald Sterling's unwillingness to spend it.
Los Angeles Lakers
I know, I know...Phil and the Lakers obviously aren't on good terms, and their latest tete-a-tete didn't make things any better.
But if there's anything Lakers fans have learned over the years, it's that when it comes to the Zen Master in L.A., never say never. The fact that Jackson was such a strong candidate for the job this time around after two bad breakups with the Busses is reason enough to think he'll be in the mix (albeit as a long shot) if the Mike D'Antoni experiment falls flat.
And so long as Jackson still lives in the L.A. area and is involved with Jeannie Buss, the daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, he'll always be within earshot of the organization with which he won five of his NBA-record 11 titles.