Phil Jackson, Jeanie Buss engaged
Phil Jackson may not have signed on for another run as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, but he's about to join the Laker family nonetheless.
The 11-time NBA champion coach popped the question to his longtime girlfriend, Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss, over the the Christmas holiday, and she accepted.
On Thursday, Buss tweeted a picture of a diamond ring with the caption: "Twitter family -- Phil finally gave me that ring I wanted ! :-) "
I'm beyond happy. I really didn't want it to be news, but I knew people who followed me on Twitter cared about it and I've been wearing the ring since Christmas, so I figured I should let people know.” -- Jeannie Buss on engagement
"I'm beyond happy," Buss told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "I really didn't want it to be news, but I knew people who followed me on Twitter cared about it and I've been wearing the ring since Christmas, so I figured I should let people know."
Buss said there is no date set for a wedding yet.
Jackson, 67, and Buss, 51, have been dating since 1999 and still live together in Playa del Rey, a beach town near the Lakers' headquarters in El Segundo, Calif. In Buss' 2011 book, "Laker Girl," Jackson explained that their courtship began over a vodka gimlet at a dinner after a long day of NBA meetings in Vancouver in 1999 and continued the next day on a flight back to Los Angeles.
"As the first-class passengers were called, I asked if she was going to board the plane, but she said she flew coach, explaining that flying first class wasn't necessary and that the Lakers didn't need the added expense," Jackson writes in the foreword to the book. "Let's just say that was the beginning of something special."
While the relationship has presented challenges over the years -- both personally and professionally -- it has always been a public one, and had the blessing of Buss' father, Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss.
"Insert your own, 'Don't fish off the company pier' jokes here," Buss writes in the introduction to the book. "But it is no joke."
In an interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com in November 2011, Buss said of their relationship: "If you would've asked me if he was the typical guy I would date, I would've said, 'Never.' I didn't see it coming. But he just bowled me over. There was just something about him."
Throughout the book, and in subsequent interviews, Buss has said she never thought Jackson would want to get married again, but had learned to accept that because their relationship always transcended distance and their professional circumstances. After Jackson retired following the 2004 season, she wrote:
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"When Phil and I said our goodbyes as he embarked on his Australia trip, I was sobbing, feeling that was the end of our relationship. Phil told me, 'You have to have confidence in our love.' The only confidence I had was drawn from the fact that we had spent so much time together. Still, it was with pure dread that I faced the future.
"Then a wonderful thing happened. We missed each other. He would call me every day, and it seemed the farther we were apart, the closer we grew to each other. Our love wasn't about the convenience of time and space, but a connection of our hearts. I had never experienced such a complete bond with someone. I knew then that we were going to make it."
Buss has offered no public comments since the Lakers chose Mike D'Antoni to replace the fired Mike Brown in November. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president Jim Buss interviewed Jackson before hiring D'Antoni. Sources said Jackson was prepared to return to the Laker sideline, but was informed the team had chosen D'Antoni instead by a late-night phone call from Kupchak.
Sources have told ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Chris Broussard that Jackson is the top target for the Brooklyn Nets to fill their coaching vacancy. Buss has always publicly maintained she would have no problem with Jackson coaching another NBA team.
"I have a lot of role models," Buss told ESPNLosAngeles.com in 2011. "The first one is my best friend, Linda Rambis, because Kurt's in Minnesota and she's here. I learned that from 2004 when he retired. A relationship isn't just about space; it's about emotion and heart and all those good things."