Last week, Lakers VP Jeanie Buss- also Phil Jackson's girlfriend, for the benefit of those living underground over the last few years- created a fair heap of chatter after stating Jackson would be coaching somewhere next year. If not in L.A., another town. "There's going to be a lot of good jobs that come up this summer," she told ESPNLA.com's Ramona Shelburne.
The implication was clear: If the organization screws around to much with negotiations, almost certainly over financial issues in one form or another, Jackson would take his clipboard to a new locale.
Tuesday, before the Lakers knocked off Utah in Game 2, Jackson diffused such talk. He didn't guarantee a return, but as Shelburne reports, PJ made it pretty clear if he coached, it would be in L.A. "I'd say it's 90 percent if that if I'm coaching it'll be here."
Given how little time he realistically has left on the sidelines, the idea Jackson would move to a different job with a lesser team seemed more than a little odd. Certainly I'm not the only one who thought so. But the sentiment behind Jeanie's threat regarding a fair salary seem more relevant. Certainly the conversations about his future have grown more common. I've heard all sorts of scenarios, anecdotally and with nobody directly connected to the team, ranging from "it'll all work out in the end" to "they'll only make him an offer if the Lakers repeat" to the idea they're looking for any reason to avoid paying Jackson altogether.
Realizing it's not my money at stake here, the idea the Lakers would go Maybach on salary obligations for the roster but settle for a Buick head coach seems antithetical to how Dr. Buss typically does business. If Jackson is squeezed out, who is available representing an upgrade, or even an even swap? Byron Scott? I don't think so. Brian Shaw? He has all the tools to be an elite coach, but next season? In two? The Lakers have a fairly narrow window to work with. Three years, give or take, of very realistic possibilities assuming guys stay reasonably healthy. Why burn some of that on an adjustment period for a new coach? Especially when one could be sucked up by a lockout? Unless they think Jackson has diminished to the point there's no longer a discernible difference, or at least not a $5-7 million dollar difference, between PJ and the next best guy (I would disagree).
It's fairly fascinating stuff.
In the end, I think the Lakers will do well enough this season to almost guarantee a suitable contract offer for Jackson. Maybe not $12 million, but not a Joe Torre-in-New York-offer he can't do anything but refuse. But that's just my opinion. Am I being overly optimistic, underselling the sorts of dynamics forcing Jackson out earlier in the decade? What say you?
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