INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Lakers fans looking for a savior from their miserable start should probably avoid uttering the name of coach Phil Jackson. He’s not likely to come back, says a man who knows Jackson well.
“I don’t think he’ll coach again,” said Cavaliers forward Luke Walton, who spent seven seasons under Jackson with the Lakers. “I think he’ll get involved in basketball — but as far as the travel, and all the long practices and preparation, I don’t think he will.”
Jackson led the Lakers to five championships and seven Finals appearances from 1999-2011. He coached the Bulls to six titles before that.
Jackson’s name has come up quite a bit lately, as the Lakers are 0-2 under current coach Mike Brown, in his second season with the team. They also lost all eight preseason games.
Expectations were sky high following the offseason acquisitions of stars Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Those two joined a lineup that already featured Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. But the Lakers haven’t meshed early, and during a home-opening loss to the Mavericks, fans chanted for the firing of Brown.
Media outlets also have openly questioned if Brown is the right man for the job.
Jackson has made two hiatuses from coaching. One took place in 1998 after his run with the Bulls, another in 2004 while with the Lakers. Walton played for Jackson from 2003-11 — but only nine games for Brown last season before getting traded to the Cavs.
Walton said he still applies the lessons he absorbed while playing for Jackson.
“There were times you’d be furious with Coach Jackson, but he was a great coach and a great motivator and I learned a lot from him,” Walton said. “So I think a lot of his stuff was drilled into my personality.”
Jackson still has a tie to the Lakers organization. His longtime companion, Jeanie Buss, is the daughter of owner Jerry Buss and sister of VP of player personnel Jim Buss. Jeanie Buss is an executive on the business side.
Jackson analyzed the current Lakers in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in early October.
“You want Steve to have the ability to have the ball with confidence … and feeling like he can run the team and get the ball to Kobe in critical situations,” he said. “You have to make Howard feel a part of it. So all those guys have to find a little role.”
Jackson was linked to the Trail Blazers this past summer, with sources telling the Oregonian in Portland he may have interest in a non-coaching role. However, that never materialized and he remains retired.
Walton expects it to stay that way.
“Maybe if the right circumstance presents itself (Jackson will return to coaching),” Walton said. “But my gut instinct is that he won’t.”