Toronto Raptors Reportedly Courting Phil Jackson Aggressively for Team President

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistApril 30, 2013

CHARLOTTE, NC - FEBRUARY 14:  Head coach Phil Jackson of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to his bench against the Charlotte Bobcats during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on February 14, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Phil Jackson is itching for an NBA return, one that could come with the Toronto Raptors.

No, not the Los Angeles Lakers. The Raptors.

According to Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of, Toronto will aggressively pursue Jackson to become the next team president now that the Sacramento Kings are poised to stay put:

The Toronto Raptors, emboldened by the news that the Sacramento Kings apparently won't be moving to Seattle, have ramped up their pursuit of Phil Jackson to be their new team president, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources told 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.

Who would've thought that the Raptors and Kings (Sonics) would vie for Jackson's services? When you think about Zen Master, you immediately picture championships and powerhouses like the Lakers and Chicago Bulls. Not rebuilding teams like the Raptors.

Per the report, though, Jackson actually prefers to join a franchise in transition. He believes he would be able to have more control of its future that way.

Remember, Jackson isn't looking to coach the Raptors or any other rebuilding faction. He's supposedly more interested in a front-office role (like president) than one that requires him to man the sidelines. And franchises without an established blueprint, like the Raptors, would be more amenable to changing course to fit Jackson's vision.

But the Raptors? Would Phil really relocate to Canada?

Shelburne and Stein say yes, citing his illustrious history with Tim Leiweke as cause for him to consider taking the job, which is just incredible.

It wasn't long ago that Jackson nearly returned to coach the Lakers in the Land of Make-Believe. Now, all of a sudden, he could assume control of the Raptors in Toronto. Talk about a twist.

Of course, just because the Raptors are (heavily) interested doesn't mean anything. Other teams are likely to reach out. Some already have.

"I've had some talks with people and there are some interesting situations that are presenting themselves, but I really haven't made up my mind yet what I'm going to do," Jackson told the San Francisco Chronicle's Scott Ostler. "None of it involves coaching. ... There are three or four teams that have been interested."

Yet another twist. It was to be expected that an array of organizations would inquire about his services, but to know he's not considering any coaching gigs is, well, weird.

Jackson coaches; it's what he does. To think he's not even contemplating a return to the sidelines is bizarre. Knowing how many times he has retired only to return, we can't rule anything out, but it seems he's inclined to return as a member of a franchise's brass.

If his predilection is truly to take the front-office reins of a rebuilding team, then we can't count out any team with an obvious need or vacancy. That's especially true for the Raptors, who have been actively attempting to reinvent themselves. Jackson could do that.

The question is, does he want to?