Pau Gasol says Phil worth every cent
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The New York Knicks officially announced the hiring of Phil Jackson as their new team president Tuesday, and will reportedly pay him $60 million over five years for the job. It may have been an unprecedented payday for a front office executive, but it also qualifies as a sound financial decision by the Knicks in Pau Gasol's eyes.
"I think the Knicks are fortunate to have him," the Los Angeles Lakers big man said after practice Tuesday. "I know they gave him a big contract and a big investment, but I think he's worth every cent of it."
Gasol, who played under Jackson in L.A. from 2008-11 and reached three NBA Finals while winning two championships in the process, said it will take some adjusting seeing Jackson working on the opposite coast.
"It's weird," Gasol said. "It's weird to see him with a Knick logo behind him in the picture today. But I know he's in a good place."
Gasol said he still sees Jackson "regularly" since the 11-time champion coach retired from the sidelines following the 2010-11 season, but will have to curtail that contact because of Jackson's new role.
"Apparently we can't really talk to each other from now on since I'm going to become a free agent and he's an executive for another team, so it's under rules that we can't communicate," Gasol said, referring to the league's tampering clause. "He can be penalized. So, our communication has been cut off until July 1st."
While Gasol can't speak directly to Jackson now (he already got his congratulations out of the way a couple days ago), he was more than willing to talk about him.
"I really like what Michael Jordan had to say," Gasol said. "I saw his statement saying that he's a guy who is a great manager of individuals and egos. He will try and will get the best out of each individual in the front office and hopefully further down for their team, for the sake of their franchise. So, he's a guy that just has great knowledge of the game, is a great leader and commands a lot of respect from his success and his intelligence."
Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni, who was hired over Jackson last November, said Jackson will do a "great job" in New York, but also detailed the challenge the former coach will face. D'Antoni coached the Knicks from 2008-2012 before being unceremoniously showed the door, so he knows the pitfalls associated with the franchise more than most.
"It's a big job anywhere," D'Antoni said. "I don't think just New York. I think it's a big job anywhere to turn it around. I think you have to look at the cap room and what they have and how quick you can do it? Can you get lucky? So there's a lot of things. I know that there will be a lot of effort put into it. Good, sound decisions. And you hope -- well, I'm not a Knick now so I don't hope -- it works out for him. But it's a tall order for anybody at anywhere at anytime. This league is not easy to get on top. And we know in New York, you're either winning or you're a failure. So, it will be tough but they got a good man and he'll do a heck of a job."
D'Antoni does not believe that Jackson's coaching resume will automatically translate to front office success.
"I don't think one correlates to the other," D'Antoni said. "I think they're two completely separate jobs. It's like turning a great player into a coach. It's a different job. So you don't know if they can do it or not. I think that obviously he's got a good basketball mind, so he'll approach it a different way and let's see if it works out. I think there's a lot of great qualities there, so there's no reason it doesn't. But there's no reason it does. So we'll see what happens."
When asked about his relationship with Jackson, D'Antoni said there was "none."
"You follow a great coach like he was and what he meant to the franchise, that's there," D'Antoni said, who has heard his share of "We want Phil!" chants at Lakers games since being hired. "So you accept it and you go on. You do your job. So he's never affected my job day to day. So it really doesn't affect what I do or try to do."
While Gasol has had his run-ins with D'Antoni ever since Jackson was passed up for a third coaching stint in L.A. last season, the 13-year veteran said he doesn't allow himself to wonder about what might have been.
"I don't wonder about it at all," Gasol said. "It's not what happened and it would be a waste of time for me to kind of dwell on that and wonder about it ... I know it would have been different."
The Lakers (22-44) have struggled this season as Kobe Bryant has played in just six games due to injuries.
"It's been extremely frustrating," said Lakers president Jeanie Buss in an interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet. "I understand why the fans are frustrated. There were a lot of injuries that weren't expected and certainly we were all looking forward to a return of Kobe Bryant from his injury. He came back successfully but it was short lived.
"I don't think that I can remember a season like this in all the years that I've worked for the Lakers. the good thing is, there's going to be a next season and we'll have an opportunity to get things back on track."
If the Lakers do indeed get back on track, it will be without Jackson playing a role.
"When you're involved in a relationship, if your significant other isn't happy or satisfied with what they're doing, it's not fun," said Buss, Jackson's fiancee. "Everybody has to find what their passion is and for Phil, basketball is what his passion is. He's good at it, I wish him well. The Knicks can do well but I want the Lakers to be No. 1."
ESPN's Ramona Shelburne contributed to this report.