- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
LOS ANGELES -- Phil Jackson has no intention to coach next season, but that may not prevent him from being a part of the Los Angeles Lakers in the near future.
Jackson said Wednesday that he has had conversations with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak recently about the team and expects to have more moving forward.
"We discussed some things, me and Mitch in the past couple of weeks, bouncing things around," Jackson said. "That's been something that has happened. It's not something I expect them to rely on me for information, but I'm there to offer it. Not so much advice. Explaining the program that they're headed toward down the road and resolutions they had in the past and trying to clean that up and talk about some of the things in the future that are different ways in which they can resolve the issues. They asked if I can be of assistance. I said, 'Yeah, I'll help in whatever area you need to have help.'"
Jackson was careful not get into specifics of his conversation with Kupchak about the Lakers, but Kupchak said he does talk to Jackson about basketball and the Lakers since Jackson is at the Lakers' facility often to see his fiance, Jeanie Buss, the Lakers' governor and executive vice president of business operations.
"He's over at the facility every now and then for obvious reasons," Kupchak said. "I'll see him then. We have reason to talk by phone every now and then. Obviously his accomplishments here, and relationship with Jeanie, create an environment that we're susceptible to dialogue with a basketball person like Phil. If he was working for another team, it wouldn't be the same."
Kupchak did not rule out the possibility of Jackson's having a more official role with the team moving forward after Jackson has passed up several opportunities with other teams.
"I'm not sure why somebody like Phil isn't working for an NBA club right now," Kupchak said. "He has so much to offer to any franchise. Even though he doesn't have an official role with us, he's a consultant of sorts. Jeanie, I'm sure, talks to him every night about basketball. It may not be official, but there is an existing relationship."
Jackson, Kupchak and Buss spoke at a Time Warner Cable media event in downtown Los Angeles honoring former Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss, who died in February.
Jeanie Buss wanted Jackson to replace Mike Brown as the coach of the Lakers last season, but her brother, Jim, and Kupchak went with Mike D'Antoni instead. Despite not getting the head coaching job, Jeanie Buss says she wants everyone to know Jackson is still an integral part of the team.
"Phil is a part of the organization because of me," she said. "Really the best way to look at it is the night of the Shaq jersey retirement, and Phil spoke on behalf of the Lakers fans and team. I want Lakers fans to know he is part of it. He's part of my life and part of my family. He's always in the Laker world no matter if he has an official position or not."
Jackson's relationship with Jeanie is his only connection with the team at the moment, which is no small connection. Despite not having an official role with the team, he walked the red carpet with Jeanie on Wednesday night and took pictures with Kupchak and current Lakers players, such as Steve Blake, Robert Sacre and Darius Morris. For what it's worth, D'Antoni wasn't in attendance, and when Jackson spoke about the team it sounded as if he were a member of the front office.
"I'm backing her and trying to find a way to bring the team back to prominence through getting a contract resolution going and signing the people they have to sign and find ways where they're mobile enough to have the talent that they have to have soon," Jackson said. "That's a tall order for anybody. She has a basketball management group with Mitch and her brother working on one end. She balances that out by bouncing it on my head once in a while."
Jim Buss and Kupchak handle the basketball decisions of the Lakers, which was the wish of Dr. Jerry Buss before he died. There had been some feeling that it would be hard for Jackson to work with Jim Buss, but Jackson said that's not the case and he has no issues with Buss but admitted he doesn't have much of a relationship with his future brother-in-law.
"We've always had a casual relationship," Jackson said. "He traveled with the team in 2001 or 2002. Sometimes I'd leave him behind if he didn't make the plane on time. But I'd do that to anybody who didn't make the plane on time. He's always wanted to come to Montana and join me. I've always had an open door for him to come and join me. When I came back with the second resolution, we had a relationship and talked a lot about the team. The last year, we didn't have a conversation and I mentioned that one time and it got some press. I didn't really talk to Jim. We just weren't in each other's company and he didn't seek mine. He rarely comes to games. He went on the road a couple of times, but we just didn't have a conversation about the future of the basketball club. Outside of seeing him in November, I haven't seen Jim since then."
Jeanie admitted she was upset Jim and Kupchak decided to hire D'Antoni instead of Jackson, and Kupchak informed Jackson of the decision in the middle of the night when all indications were he would accept the position to come back and coach the team. She still says she wonders how far the Lakers could have gone if Jackson were the coach.
"I was not happy with how things happened," Jeanie said. "I just think it was a difficult process to go through. I was disappointed, but I'm biased. I don't think anybody would judge me to say [Phil] is the best coach in the entire world. That's my prerogative to feel that way. They had their reasons for doing what they did, but I kind of have that what-if feeling. What if he had coached?"
Jeanie says she reminds Jim about not hiring Jackson whenever the family gets together.
"I think it's something I can always tease him about," Jeanie said. "I think that's what families do. You always bring up things. Everyone always has family issues, and maybe that was something I can tease him about. It's fine. What happened happened."
Although Jeanie is the team's governor and is more visible and vocal than Jim, she said she has no intention to take over the basketball operations of the team, wishing to honor her father's wishes.
"We've been working together since we were little and with the Lakers for a long time," Jeanie said. "I know my dad set things up for us going forward in a system that he felt confident in, and I have complete confidence in his will."
Jackson once again said he has "no intention of coaching" but smiled when he was reminded that intentions can quickly change.
"I know," he said with a wry smile. "Don't they?"
Jackson admitted the rigors of travel and an 82-game season might be too much for him at 67 years old but that he is feeling better after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011.
"The physical nature of coaching has kind of passed me by on some level," Jackson said. "I'm getting stronger and healthier all the time as I recover from some things that have gone on the last couple of years. The desire to coach is always going to be there. The knowledge of what you like to see happen on the floor and little things that go on in the game that would be different but that's natural."
Jeanie wasn't sure what Jackson's official role with the team could be, but said Jim and Kupchak know how to contact him if they ever wanted him back.
"My brother, Jim, and Mitch know Phil is a phone call away," Buss said. "He's always available. He would always do anything to help, support or listen. It's like we're all family."
2dAmin Elhassan and Baxter Holmes