Jackson shuts door on Bulls, intrigued by Nets
A cagy Phil Jackson said Tuesday he has “no desire at all” to
return to Chicago to coach the Bulls, though would “like to have a
vodka” with the new owner of the New Jersey Nets.
The Los Angeles Lakers coach addressed two reports by ESPN that
the Bulls and Nets have worked through back channels to gauge his
interest, saying those channels haven’t reached him.
Jackson, who has coached teams to 10 NBA titles, is on the final
year of his contract with the Lakers and has said there was “a 90
percent” chance he would either return to the team for an 11th
season or would retire.
His comment on the Nets referred to the billionaire new owner of
the franchise, Russian Mikhail Prokhorov.
“I’d like to have a, you know, vodka with him at some point,”
Jackson said. “He seems like a very interesting young man.”
When someone pointed out that the Nets won 12 games this season,
45 fewer than his Lakers, Jackson said, “I’ve never lived in
Brooklyn, or Newark, so.” He didn’t end the sentence.
Pressed to say that it would be the Lakers or nothing next
season, the 64-year-old Jackson said, “I have trouble making
commitments,” a response that drew a big laugh from reporters at
the coach’s pregame news conference before the Lakers met the
Phoenix Suns in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals.
He added, though, that “the probabilities are great” that he
would coach the Lakers if he coaches at all.
Jackson’s coaching future is a subplot to the high-stakes
competition to lure free agent LeBron James. There is no doubt that
Jackson as coach would be a significant lure for the NBA’s MVP,
especially combined with the big money Prokhorov brings.
But it also could be a bit of posturing for Jackson, who has
directed the Lakers to four NBA titles and has a 1,094-453
regular-season record with the franchise. Owner Jerry Buss
reportedly has indicated he would want Jackson to take a pay cut
from the $12 million he earns this season.
Despite his “vodka” comment, Jackson said coaching elsewhere
would be highly improbable.
“I’ve not entertaining any conversation about that right now,”
he said. “I just can’t imagine it, not to say it’s beyond your
wildest dreams and never would happen. I mean, the strangest things
do. I mean it’s just not part of my conscious thought right now.
We’re down this path,” indicating the current playoff series
“I’ll leave it open and just say as of now I have not made up
my mind about coaching or not coaching next year,” he said.
“That’s all I can say really truthfully.”
Jackson was with the Nets for the final two years of his playing
career, which ended in 1980. He was with the New York Knicks his
first 12 seasons as a player and was on the team that won the NBA
title in 1973.