UPDATE: 8:18 pm: In his pregame talk with the media, Phil Jackson sounded a little less certain, and a little more like this was all tied to winning another title. From the AP story:
Lakers coach Phil Jackson says he hasn’t decided whether he’ll return for another season on the Los Angeles bench but he might be compelled to come back if his team wins another championship.
Jackson told reporters before the Lakers’ game Friday night in Oklahoma City that “if we win, it’s almost imperative that I give it another shot.”
This is a little motivation and negotiation from Jackson. He wants to come back but: 1) Only a fool would say they are certain to do something before they enter negotiations on a contract, giving the other side leverage, and Jackson is no fool; 2) He wants to motivate his team with the “my fate is in your hands” thing. These comments do not change anything. The general feeling among people with and around the Lakers is Jackson is strongly leaning toward returning, but he wants to get through the playoffs and talk to his doctor before he and Buss sit down. That said, baring something unexpected, Jackson will return next year to LA.
3:40 pm: This news is not a surprise, everyone around the Lakers expected it — Phil Jackson was not going to walk away from the Lakers coaching gig, unless he couldn’t walk.
Jackson says he wants to come back and coach the Lakers again next year. Scott Howard-Cooper got the scoop at NBA.com.
Asked if he thinks he will be back with a new deal in 2010-11, Jackson said without hesitation: “Yeah.”
“The wear and tear of a season, I think, affects everybody, the travel and whatever else you have to do for an extended time,” he said at the Ford Center after a Lakers shoot around in preparation for the game against the Thunder later Friday. “But, all that being said, I’m as mobile as I’ve ever been in the last three years. That helps. I’m dealing with less arthritic elements that are painful things going on as you age. But there are still considerations as to the duration that I will coach, simply because I have to stay attuned to that.
“I look at something that happened like George Karl [the Nuggets coach who has been spending time away from the team while undergoing cancer treatment] and I just think it’s a shame. You can’t predict or project that as a possible situation, but he’s going to miss part of the season and it’s going to affect his team. I wouldn’t want to put a franchise in that position when there’s young healthy guys that can do the job.”
Jerry Buss will pay to bring him back — Jackson provides return on investment. Jackson may be the only coach that can sell tickets. The Lakers win under him, and the fan base considers Jackson a key part of the success. Buss has always been willing to pay to win.
A couple years ago, with one hip replacement surgery done and another one scheduled, it was clear just watching Jackson move around he was in pain. The NBA season is a grind on coaches, too — stress, lack of sleep, travel, having to deal with the media, not to mention owners. Any sane person would have done what Jackson did and considered retirement.
But the lure of more rings is strong — and this is a Lakers team still capable of getting more. Now he seems to be moving better, his spirits seem good. He seems to be enjoying the moment. Sure, $12 million doesn’t hurt, but it takes more than money to motivate Jackson.
He still savors the intellectual challenge of molding a team, of pushing the buttons and the thrill ride of the playoffs. The championship window for this Lakers team remains wide open for a few more years. There have been recent hints Jackson wanted to return, like him saying a lot of nice things about Jerry Buss lately.
Now we know for sure.