Toronto Raptors Reportedly Interested in Phil Jackson
UPDATE: Tuesday, April 30, at 12:30 p.m. ET by Sam Westmoreland
The Raptors have been linked to legendary coach Phil Jackson for some time now, and according to a report from Ramona Shelbourne and Marc Stein of ESPN, the Toronto club are ramping up their efforts to land the coach as the team's new club president.
Per that report:
Sources told ESPN.com that the Raptors -- now being run by former Los Angeles-based sports mogul Tim Leiweke -- regarded the Seattle group that was trying to buy the Kings as the biggest threat to preventing Jackson from seriously considering their pitch.
But now that the Kings appear poised to stay in Sacramento instead of being sold to the consortium led by Jackson fan Chris Hansen, sources say that the Raptors will be pursuing Jackson aggressively this week, believing that they rank as Jackson's most attractive current option for a new career in management now that he can reunite with Leiweke.
While it remains to be seen how interested Jackson actually is in going to Toronto to run their club, they have to be considered contenders based on how much they've been pursuing him.
Sources told ESPN.com this week that the Raptors have interest in talking with Jackson about the Pat Riley-style role he craves in charge of a team's basketball operations. ESPN.com reported last week that Jackson, after nearly two seasons in retirement, is "itching" to return to the NBA next season, but preferably in a role similar to Riley's in Miami that allows him to oversee both the basketball department and the coaching staff.
He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007, signifying him as one of the greatest coaches of all time.
Jackson could be a big help for an organization that has not reached the playoffs since the 2007-08 season. The Raptors have not advanced to the second round of the postseason since 2001.
Toronto's 34-48 record this season was the best winning percentage the team had in three years, although this is obviously short of what the organization thinks it is capable of achieving.
Would Phil Jackson bring the Toronto Raptors to the playoffs?
The "Zen Master" should be expected to make a big impact after a long career of success at various levels in the NBA.
Of course, there will be a lot of competition for Jackson's services. Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated (h/t San Francisco Chronicle) reports that "three or four teams" are interested in bringing in the former coach for a front-office role.
It is currently unknown what he is looking for in each organization, but he will certainly be looking at which one provides the best fit.
The Raptors are still considering retaining team president Bryan Colangelo and coach Dwane Casey, according to Stein and Shelburne. However, adding Jackson would be a huge splash for the future of the organization.
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