An Open Letter to Make Phil Jackson Official Voice of Laker Nation
Dear Jim and Jeanie Buss and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers family,
The name Phil Jackson still means something. Two years removed from the coaching scene, it's time to make his voice mean something (more) too.
More importantly, it's time to move on from Phil Jackson, The Coach.
Although some don't believe he's coached his last NBA game, he's made it abundantly clear he has no intention of returning to the sidelines. If he was going to coach again, it would be for the Lakers. And that ship sailed last November, when Mike D'Antoni was hired over him.
None of this "right situation" stuff makes any sense. Jackson is a Laker; the organization is his family. Short of finding that front-office role he's been seeking somewhere else, he's not going anywhere.
You said it yourself, Jim. You told The Hollywood Reporter's Ric Bucher you "can call him at anytime," intimating that he remains a member of the franchise sans the official title.
It's time to give him that official title. Not as a coach, front-office executive or understudy to Mitch Kupchak, but as the Lakers' official color analyst. Make him the voice of Laker nation, and do it now.
Jeanie, you seem to be thinking along the same lines. According to Bucher, you alluded to Jackson filling in on some broadcasts. You might not have meant to stir the pot with such a nominal admission, but you did. And it makes sense.
What better way to ensure Jackson remains an integral part of the organization without bestowing upon him the power he demanded last fall? What other role would allow the Lakers to cater to his health without compromising the needs of the team? I can't think of one, because there isn't one.
Los Angeles is approaching a crucial stage of its existence, preparing to traverse waters it hasn't had to in more than a decade. Let his voice soothe the fanbase in ways the Lakers roster and future plans cannot.
There is no guarantee Kobe Bryant returns to form following the rehabilitation of a torn Achilles. He'll take the court with a vengeance, that much we know. But we have no idea if he'll ever be the same.
The summer of 2014 doesn't provide any stability either. Distinct possibilities exist in the forms of LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, among others, but superstar arrivals aren't a certainty.
Giving Jackson a headset and a platform on which to speak won't act as a cure-all or completely erase any of the current questions the Lakers are facing. Magic can't be worked from behind the scorer's table.
But a voice of reason can be heard.
Now more than ever the Lakers need a critic who won't sugarcoat the obvious. Jackson never minced words when he was the coach, he's not going to shirk the overt when his job description dictates just the opposite.
Being who he is, he'll have no trouble criticizing the Lakers and Kobe when the situation calls for it. He'll have no qualms about saying the things Stu Lantz can't.
Remember, this is the same Jackson who didn't hesitate to blame losses on the Black Mamba, who didn't shy away from calling him out when he had to. The Lakers need that kind of unshackled honesty.
Which isn't to say the Zen Master must emerge as a Staples Center-employed Lakers hater. No team would pay money out of its own pocket to hear superfluous criticism at its own expense. Literally.
That opinionated bravado Jackson has always carried himself with—the Lakers need that. Think Jeff Van Gundy, with more hair and championship rings.
Let's not ignore that the team could use the good PR as well. Hiring Jackson in this capacity helps quell those still calling for Magic Mike's job almost a year later. With Jackson assuming an official position, the fanbase gets the kind of closure it wanted when Mike Brown was fired.
So what if Jackson isn't coaching? At least he would be there. That'd be enough at this point.
Obvious entertainment value exists here as well. Jackson always knows what to say and how to say it. Just watch any one of his postgame pressers if you've forgotten how educationally-quippy he can be.
Bring that all-knowing merchant of snark back to the Lakers. Bring him back to Los Angeles.
Not as the coach or in any other role that can be tailored to his skill set, but as the voice of the team. Of its fans.
The voice everyone in Los Angeles needs to hear as they prepare for what comes next.
Anyone who loves to hear Jackson tell it like is
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