Phil Jackson Is Reportedly Ready for an NBA Return

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 8, 2014

Getty Images

Retirement might be a little too easy for Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson.

While his name has aimlessly bounced across all angles of the rumor mill since he last coached in 2011, it sounds like the "Zen Master" is closer to finding his next NBA home.

UPDATED on Saturday, March 8 at 5:55 p.m. ET

Jackson's restlessness might soon become a thing of the past.

According to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, via SportsCenter's official Twitter feed, Jackson is strongly considering becoming the Knicks' next president of basketball operations:

He would inherit quite a mess if he did accept the position, but his legend would grow even greater if he could pull this miracle off.

The fact that he'd be doing it in the same city where he started his NBA journey could put a nice full-circle touch on his already storied career.

--End of update--


The 11-time champion is "ready to go back to work," a source told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. A front-office role seems to be his ideal position, but Shelburne wrote that a temporary coaching position is a possibility:

While Jackson has made it clear to any team that has approached him that he prefers a front-office role that would allow him to shape and mold a franchise the way Miami Heat president Pat Riley has, he is open to the possibility of coaching for a short period of time if it was necessary in a transition period for a franchise with championship aspirations, the source said.

There isn't a more majestic name in the coaching world than Jackson's. His 20 seasons at the helm—nine with the Chicago Bulls, 11 with the Los Angeles Lakers—resulted in 11 NBA championships and an overall record of 1155-485 (.704 winning percentage).

A coaching search doesn't start without kicking the tires on Jackson, but the 68-year-old has rebuffed all recent inquiries. Health issues have been the most common reason for his denials.

Most recently, Jackson has been linked with the New York Knicks, the franchise where he spent 10 seasons of his 12-year playing career.

NEW YORK, NY - April 5: Phil Jackson and Spike Lee share a laugh before the game between the New York Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks on April 5, 2013 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

According to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith, Knicks president and general manager Steve Mills recently met with Jackson to discuss his coaching position. Sources told Smith that Jackson said he had no interest in the position.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News has since reported that the Knicks have now offered "a front-office position" to Jackson and expect to hear an answer "sometime next week." The specific position offered remains unclear, but a source told Isola it would be "more than just a consulting job."

Jackson has been publicly mum on the Knicks talks, but he did address the possibility of an NBA return while speaking with USA Today's Sam Amick during the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Jackson didn't identify which situations interested him specifically, but a sketch artist provided with the description he gave of an opportunity he would like might have reproduced New York's team photo.

"There are winners and losers in the NBA, and a lot of people are trying to reclaim their position or change their culture or whatever," Jackson said. "I've had conversations. Some of them are feelers. 'Are you interested?' type of thing."

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

We now have at least a partial answer to that question. Whether he's contemplating a return to the Big Apple or has another destination in mind, something seems to have gotten his comeback juices flowing.

Would he really make his way back to the sideline, though? That seems like a stretch, even in a short-term situation. Even if his passion for coaching still burns, there are physical challenges with the position.

"This is a guy who has had both hips and one knee replaced (with the other likely), who has spent too many years on the road sleeping in beds too short for his 6’10” frame, having showerheads hit him in the middle of the back," NBC Sports' Kurt Helin wrote. "He’s not eager to return to the bench and that life."

The life of a powerful front-office executive might be the perfect way to re-enter this league. There wouldn't be many recruiting tools more effective than Jackson's jewelry collection.

If Jackson is in fact ready to make his NBA comeback, the NBA is more than happy to welcome him back to the fold. It's been trying to do just that since he first walked away.