Former LA Lakers coach Phil Jackson
Jackson previously coached the Purple and Gold to five titles and consequently comes with some gravitas. He has consistently demonstrated he can get talented teams over the hump and reach the mountaintop.
Hence, his new role with the franchise certainly is a welcomed addition. On the flip side, it’s a well-documented fact that Jackson has a fairly large ego, and thus, he could in fact become more harmful than helpful whether it is his intent or not.
We will have a look at the positive and negative aspects pertaining to his involvement with the franchise. Ultimately it is about the bottom line: wins and losses.
One has to look at the factors and judge them from the standpoint of whether they help the Lakers win games or not. Hence, we will deem contributions as positive if they help the team win.
In the event an aspect distracts the team or simply results in losses, it will be considered negative.
Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers
Phil Jackson has been the most successful person in basketball at reining in Kobe Bryant, as evidenced by their accomplishments together. Bryant has often strayed from the pack and performed as a solo artist.
In these instances, the two-time Finals MVP has occasionally turned his teammates into spectators and consequently failed to get their best effort. Jackson found ways to blend Bryant’s skills with those of other Lakers, and it made the team successful.
Bringing in Jackson will help bring the Lakers’ all-time leading scorer back into the fold if he attempts to consistently serve aces like a tennis player. This became a common occurrence in 2012-13 when the Lakers were facing a big deficit.
Jackson’s proximity will help the Lakers avoid ruts when Bryant simply looks to do everything by his lonesome.
Mike D'Antoni coaching the LA Lakers
Mike D’Antoni’s hiring during the 2012-13 season was a controversial one because the Los Angeles Lakers employed two All-Star-caliber big men at the time. His style of play is more suited for a team with young athletes, which the Purple and Gold are not.
Phil Jackson’s triangle offense seemed perfect for the squad considering he had already been successful with some of the players on the roster.
Given that D’Antoni and Jackson have different views in terms of style of play, there is a risk that the former Chicago Bulls head coach might alienate the Lakers' headman with suggestions revolving around the offense.
Winning games is a difficult proposition altogether, but it doing so while being second-guessed by arguably the greatest head coach the sport has ever seen can simply become insurmountable.
Pau Gasol of the LA Lakers
Pau Gasol simply has not been the same player since Phil Jackson left the Los Angeles Lakers after the 2010-11 season. Mike Brown and Mike D’Antoni have mostly relegated him to the elbows or the three-point line, where he is not incredibly productive.
Jackson mostly played Gasol on the block and exploited his vast array of skills. There were times in 2012-13 that Gasol appeared as though he had lost his confidence. In truth, playing the role of stretch big man was simply confusing for him and kept him out of his preferred areas on the floor.
Jackson’s insights will give D’Antoni a better grasp of the ways available for Gasol to regain his All-Star form.
Jim Buss (left) of the LA Lakers
The worst-kept secret in Los Angeles is the odd tension between Phil Jackson and Jim Buss.
Buss wanted no part of Jackson’s influence on the franchise after his departure in the 2011 offseason, and he was also one of the voices in favor of hiring Mike D’Antoni over the championship coach during the 2012-13 campaign.
Therefore, it is quite possible that there is still friction present between both. Given that some believe Jackson has already sabotaged the chances of people close to him, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Buss might feel the former Lakers coach is scheming to do as much to him.
If such is the case, Jackson’s input might be kept to a minimum and even censored on a few occasions. Therefore, Jackson’s contributions will mostly be rendered nil.
Worse yet, the discord might become public and sidetrack the entire franchise.
Even when he appears confused, Phil Jackson knows what he's doing.
During his stints coaching the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, Phil Jackson often solicited the assistance of George Mumford when dealing with his players. The psychologist helped the team deal with the rigors and pressures associated with playing professional sports.
This partly explains why Jackson’s teams were often quite mentally tough and in sync with each other during deep postseason runs. Jackson could potentially bring back Mumford and create a harmonious locker room where players are connected to each other through their successes and failures.
The man Laker fans want: Phil Jackson
At various times during the 2012-13 season, Staples Center was inundated with chants of “We want Phil” during Lakers games. The chants were at their loudest when Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey was retired at halftime of a game.
The cheers for Phil Jackson made the Purple and Gold’s halftime adjustments a little awkward given that players in the locker rooms heard the chants. The distraction is one the Lakers do not need because it can potentially cause friction among the coaching staff.
A coach not focused on his team is hardly an effective one.
Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers
The book on Mike D’Antoni states he loves to run his stars into the ground. He plays his main guys a substantial amount of minutes and puts little faith in his second unit.
Consequently, the reserves rarely perform at optimal levels while his big guns carry the bulk of the load and watch their tanks empty over the course of an 82-game schedule.
Phil Jackson, on the other hand, found the delicate balance between resting his starters for long stretches and allowing his bench players to prosper during his coaching days. It’s partly why role players have often looked much better under Jackson’s watch than other coaches.
There is some wisdom on this front that Jackson can impart on D’Antoni to save the legs of Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. The Lakers need to keep their aging backcourt as fresh as possible by season’s end if a playoff push is to be made.
An exasperated Mike D'Antoni
Phil Jackson was publicly labeled as the runner-up to Mike D’Antoni in the Los Angeles Lakers’ coaching search during the 2012-13 season. Mind you, the former Chicago Bulls head coach is far more decorated than his counterpart.
Thus, bringing in Jackson could create an uneasiness on D’Antoni’s part given Los Angeles’ love of their former coach. Indeed, Jeanie Buss has made it known in the past that Jackson was the man she wanted for the job.
It’s fair to wonder whether D’Antoni can get the Lakers playing at a high level while looking over his shoulder and seeing the 11-time champion coach grinning at him and recounting the days of Lakers glory past.
Phil Jackson handling the media.
Being part of the Lakers organization comes with a different type of pressure and media scrutiny than most NBA teams because the team is situated in one of the largest markets in the country.
And yet, Phil Jackson has expertly dealt with it in his time as the leader of Purple and Gold’s players. Although he made a few gaffes, he always figured out which buttons to publicly press when handling his team.
Mike D’Antoni, on the other hand, has often been criticized on this front because his sarcasm and humorous nature are often taken out of context or simply interpreted as serious views about the team.
Jackson’s presence in the Lakers hierarchy can help dissuade some of D’Antoni’s comments and keep the focus on the team as opposed to the coach’s statements.
A pensive and calculated Phil Jackson
Phil Jackson is arguably the best coach in league history when it comes to manipulating the media. He has gotten away with throwing his players under the bus and questioning their manhood without really ever getting called out on it.
Given that the Lakers play in one of the largest markets in the country, Jackson gets to control the information that gets dispersed on the airwaves and usually looks like the smartest guy in the business.
That’s dangerous for the Lakers organization because Jackson’s words are given a lot of credence. Hence, any potential criticism he will offer on the inner workings of the franchise and its coaching staff is going to resonate.
Such issues will sidetrack the team and potentially affect its performance given the pressure on Mike D’Antoni.