Phil Jackson Once Scouted Pistons Amid Coaching Rumors During Bulls '98 Tenure

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistMay 16, 2020

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks during a news conference before an NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Knowing the 1997-98 season was most likely the end of his time as head coach of the Chicago Bulls, Phil Jackson thought about the next step in his career as the team was heading toward its sixth NBA championship.

Speaking to ESPN The Magazine's Rick Telander at the time in a piece that's since been republished, Jackson explained he spent time looking at the Detroit Pistons personnel amid speculation they wanted to hire him. 

"Any coach would do that," he said. "I feel they have players who would fit very well into our system of offense. But they made their choice; they have a coach, Alvin Gentry, they're set, and that's that."

The Pistons hired Alvin Gentry midway through the 1997-98 season when Doug Collins was fired after a 21-24 start.

Gentry wound up being Detroit's head coach for two more years before getting replaced by George Irvine midway through the 1999-00 season.

As documented on The Last Dance, then-Bulls general manager Jerry Krause made no secret of his desire to move on from Jackson after the 1997-98 season by telling him "you're not coming back" even if he went 82-0.

Chicago wound up going 62-20 in the regular season and defeated the Utah Jazz in the NBA Finals to win its sixth title in eight seasons.

The Bulls' dynasty broke up after that year with Jordan retiring, Pippen getting traded to the Houston Rockets and Dennis Rodman getting released.

Jackson sat out the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season before taking over as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He went on to five championships in 11 years with the Lakers, including three straight from 1999-00 to 2001-02.