Phil Jackson had said that chasing a fourth three-peat played a big role in his return. Talking about himself after the Lakers were eliminated, he made it sound like that competitive fire more than passion for the game brought him back.
But there was another reason — the lockout.
That’s what he told Mark Kriegel (the Barfly) of FoxSports.com in an interesting interview (watch the entire video, good stuff).
“Dr. Buss and I went out to lunch last year during the Phoenix series in the playoffs, and he said ‘With the impending labor disagreement coming up, there are things we have to do as owners that make sense,’” Jackson said. “I said I’m really thinking about retiring now, but if there’s going to be a lockout that’s going to change the complexity, I would consider coming back and coaching another year to carry the team forward to that particular point…
“Everyone is talking about this perhaps lasting the whole year, I don’t want the organization to have to pay a salary for a coach doing nothing. They’ve been really good to me salary wise this whole time, but if I signed a two-year contract then they’d have to pay me.”
The Lakers, like a number of teams, have not retained some personnel that normally would be kept around during the summer — such as parts of the training staff — because they don’t want to pay everyone through an extended lockout.
Coach is a place the Lakers can save money. Phil Jackson was the highest-paid coach in the NBA at about $12 million a year two years ago (twice what any other coach made) although he took a salary reduction last season. If stayed on the payroll, he would have been paid that money through the lockout. Paid to sit on his ranch in Montana. He didn’t want to do that. Owner Jerry Buss didn’t want to do that.
So Jackson returned for one year. Whoever the new coach is — Brian Shaw, Rick Adelman or someone else — they will make less than half of what Jackson made. Another cost savings heading into what could be a protracted labor fight.
Even for the Zen master, money was always a factor.