Will Kurt Rambis Returning to LA Lakers Be Precursor to Phil Jackson's Reunion?

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 27:  (L-R) Assistant coach Kurt Rambis, head coach Phil Jackson and assistant coach Frank Hamblen of the Los Angeles Lakers look on from their bench against the Utah Jazz in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 27, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers defeated the Jazz 107-96 to win the series 4-1. 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 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers are on the verge of hiring Kurt Rambis as an assistant coach, per ESPN, but could that just be the first step toward bringing back Phil Jackson?

Rambis was an assistant coach for the Lakers from 1994 through 1998 before spending the 1999 season as their head coach. Jackson came in to take over the team the following season, and Rambis went back to an assistant job from 2001 until 2004, and then again from 2005 through 2009.

After spending two seasons as the head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Rambis worked as an analyst for ESPN.

What makes the hiring so interesting is that Rambis' stints in Los Angeles coincided with Jackson's, save the final few seasons of Jackson's career when Rambis went to coach the Timberwolves.

Rambis was with the team as the assistant general manager during their first two championships back in 2000 and 2001.

When he joined the coaching staff at the start of the 2002 season, Rambis stuck by Jackson until 2004 when they both left Los Angeles.

Once Jackson came back in the summer of 2005, Rambis came along with him to continue as the Lakers' lead assistant.

After the Lakers lost Rambis to the Timberwolves following the 2009 season, both Jackson and Kobe Bryant mentioned how much he meant to the team.

Whether it was a sign of respect, or just the indication that Frank Hamblen, Brian Shaw and Jim Cleamons could grow enough to cover his role, Jackson never filled Rambis' position.

When it seemed Jackson would take over the team again after Mike Brown was fired five games into the 2013 season, Rambis' name popped up yet again.

Both he and Cleamons were ready to come back and join Jackson's coaching staff if he were to land the job.

It seems that Rambis is ready at the drop of a hat to join Jackson each time he embarks on a new coaching challenge, so couldn't this hiring by the Lakers be an olive branch to the Zen Master?

Back in 2011, Jim Buss did anything possible to erase every trace of Jackson from the halls of Staples Center.

Jackson and the Lakers parted ways, and Brian Shaw, who was groomed to take Jackson's place following his retirement, was given no more than an interview as a parting gift.

Shaw recalled the group that interviewed him, which included Jim and Jerry Buss, as well as general manager Mitch Kupchak, bad-mouthing Jackson. Plus, he didn't receive so much as a phone call to let him know that he didn't get the job.

Just like that, all of Jackson's assistants were gone and the Lakers were moving on.

Almost the same thing happened in the fall of 2012 when Jackson nearly landed the job again. Kupchak called Jackson hours before he was to make a decision, telling him that they had gone in a different direction and hired Mike D'Antoni.

The Lakers moved on, Jackson moved on, but apparently they were still keen on nabbing Rambis.

Jackson has been done coaching and then back in the saddle more times than any of us can count, so it's impossible to tell whether or not Jackson actually wants to get back in the league.

However, if things fall in the right direction this season and the Lakers are able to put together a solid rebuilding front in 2014, maybe re-hiring Rambis will be enough to pique Jackson's interest.