Phil Jackson on his future...and leaving politics in the past

May, 5, 2010
5/05/10
12:15
AM ET
By J.A. Adande

When Jeanie Buss said last week that Phil Jackson would coach next year, “Whether it’s here or someplace else I don’t know”, it wasn’t what she said so much as that she said it.

My sense was that it was a hollow negotiating tactic. Jackson doesn’t mind having the concept of him coaching somewhere else out there, but I doubt it’s something he would want to see through. Most noteworthy was that Buss would violate Corleone Principle No. 1 and take sides against the family. To reset, she’s the owner’s daughter and a team executive and she’s dating the coach and taking his side. You wonder if that’s something that could have ramifications that last beyond Jackson’s time here, whether it ends this year or 2012.

But when Jackson was asked Tuesday night if he could envision himself coaching elsewhere he replied: “I really couldn’t. I can’t see that as an image or even as a prospect.”

He went so far as to say “There’s a 90 percent chance of, if I’m coaching, I’d be here.”

Of the current openings Chicago would make a lot of sense – good young talent, familiar setting – but he said he wasn’t interested.

I don’t see Jackson coaching beyond 2012 – with the appeal of playing a lockout-shortened season in 2011-12 holding great sway with him, based on his desire to fast-forward regular seasons into the playoffs.

So there’s no point in him starting off a rebuilding project if he’s not going to be around to finish it. That means no amount of Mikhail Prokhorov’s rubles could get him to spend the next two years in temporary housing in New Jersey. Or down in New Orleans. And even though the Clippers job would allow him to stay close to Jeanie Buss, after Jackson’s swipes at Donald Sterling I don’t see that happening….not that Sterling could meet Jackson’s asking price anyway.

So it’s Lakers or nothing, which once again means championship or nothing, because that’s the only way Jerry Buss would be inclined to keep writing the big checks.

While Jackson’s career stance didn’t surprise me, I was caught off guard by his take on the Phoenix Suns’ peaceful protest of Arizona’s new immigration enforcement law in the form of wearing their “Los Suns” jerseys.

First Jackson, who has showed lefty leanings in the past, indicated he had no problem with the controversial state Senate Bill 1070.

“Am I crazy, or am I the only one that heard [the legislature] say ‘we just took the United States immigration law and adapted it to our state,’” Jackson said.

I told him they usurped the federal law.

“It’s not usurping, it’s just copying it is what they said they did, and then they gave it some teeth to be able to enforce it,” Jackson said.

Then he mildly scolded the Suns.

“I don’t think teams should get involved in the political stuff. And I think this one’s still kind of coming out to balance as to how it’s going to be favorably looked upon by our public. If I heard it right the American people are really for stronger immigration laws, if I’m not mistaken. Where we stand as basketball teams, we should let that kind of play out and let the political end of that go where it’s going to go.”

That was surprising to hear coming from a man who not only supported Bill Bradley for the Democratic presidential nomination, he wore a Bradley campaign pin on his suit during games. Jackson reminded me that the NBA made him stop wearing it. And apparently that was the end of his political proclamations…although he did take one parting shot.

“I kind of wish [Bradley] would have been the president,” Jackson said. “After all was said and done, that [George W. Bush] situation.”

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