Although the LeBron James free agency sweepstakes and the, what seemed to be but now is not so certain, inevitable finals match-up between the Celtics and Lakers, "sources" began discussing whether Phil Jackson may not return as coach of the Lakers and could potentially resurface as coach of the Bulls, Nets, or some other team where LeBron decides to go. This also followed the reports from a couple of weeks ago that the Zen Master may have to take a pay cut from his $12 million salary to stay with the Lakers.
On one hand, one could look at Phil's situation and ask why he would want to leave the Lakers. He still has Kobe playing at a championship level, has Pau Gasol as the perfect compliment, coaches one of the most storied and respected franchises in all of sports, and dates the boss' daughter. Sounds like a pretty cushy job to me. I think I would give up my life in a cube for that deal.
However, an opposite stream of logic could be used to reach the conclusion that there is a good possibility that he might leave for one of these other jobs. First, one can look at the money aspect. Some other team looking for a coach to get them over the top would surely pay top dollar to procure the services of a ten-time champion. He may not get the $12 million he is getting with the Lakers, but he could be in line to make more than what he might be making after the 50% or so pay-cut that has been reported if he stays with the Lakers.
Secondly, the prevailing thought is that he could leave to coach LeBron. That doesn't need much explanation, but would Phil leave the foundation and draw of the Lakers and Kobe Bryant who are perennial title contenders or would he take the chance that another team would be able to surround LeBron with the talent needed to take over the league. With the Lakers, Phil somewhat knows what he's getting. He knows what Kobe, Gasol, and the rest of the cast bring to the table and that is an enviable position in the up and down world of the NBA. However, eventually the miles that Kobe is putting on his body is going to catch up to him and he is not going to be the player that can lead a title contender and then what?
If Phil leaves L.A. and can bring LeBron with him, he knows he will have the best player in the league for the forseeable future and that is when Phil is at his best. No coach wins multiple titles without great players, but Phil has been lucky enough to coach the greatest of all time in MJ with Scottie Pippen as his #2, the most dominant force in the league at his prime in Shaq with Kobe as his #2, and now one of the two best players in the league in Kobe with Pau Gasol as his #2. I don't know if any coach has ever had the luxury of having three tandems like that over the course of their career.
Now, Phil might have the luxury of tagging along with the next generation of superstar in LeBron. With the Bulls, he could have Derrick Rose as the #2 and he could choose from some other team who has the money to pair LeBron with his choice of a #2 like Chris Bosh. Regardless, the prospects of a coach leaving an organization with the certainties of the Lakers and venturing out the unknown would normally seem like a no-brainer, but, in this case, I would not be so sure.