Phil Jackson won five championships as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. And even though he’s currently president of the New York Knicks, Jackson’s complicated relationship with Southern California’s most popular sports organization remains very much alive.
When Jackson fired Derek Fisher as Knicks coach Monday, it caught most of the NBA by surprise. Sure, Fisher hasn’t had much success at the helm, but he also hadn’t held the job for even two full seasons. The team wasn’t good to begin with, and Fisher wasn’t working with high expectations.
This makes sense. Jackson coached Walton for seven seasons in L.A., and the two won a pair of championships together. The connection is obvious. And it’s extremely unfortunate news for the Lakers, who were almost definitely planning to bring Walton home next season.
Kurt Rambis is Knicks interim coach but league sources believe Brian Shaw and Luke Walton are top long-term replacement candidates
Even though Jackson’s fiancee, Jeanie Buss, is part-owner of the Lakers, it’s highly unlikely he’ll ever work for that team again. There’s too much bad blood after the Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni instead of Jackson to replace Mike Brown a few years ago.
The Lakers/Knicks bidding war for Luke Walton this summer is going to have to work around the Phish Summer tour.
Revenge doesn’t feel like the Zen Master’s style, but it very much could be a satisfying side effect in this situation. Walton, who led the Warriors to a 24-0 start this season while head coach Steve Kerr was recovering from back surgery, would be a great hire for either team.
But at the end of the day, he can only pick one. Where should he go? It’s a tough call, considering both jobs come with tons of pressure and are beneath incompetent ownership. The Lakers have a brighter future, though. They’re starting fresh next season with tons of cap space and a few intriguing young prospects.