How Can The Lakers Allow This?
Jackson to Knicks? Former NBA Coach Can't Believe It
By Mitch Chortkoff
As of this writing, Phil Jackson and the New York Knicks are making progress on details of a contract that will bring him to the team with total control in running the basketball operation.
This is what the man who won 11 NBA championship rings as a coach and two as a player has sought in recent years from the Lakers.
Apparently, however, Laker owner Jim Buss isn't interested.
Avery Johnson, who played in the league for 16 years and then coached Dallas and New Jersey, can't believe what's happening.
"How can the Lakers allow this?" Johnson asks.
"He's right there in Los Angeles, he has such a great knowledge of the league and he's part of the Laker family since he's engaged to Jeannie Buss."
It's true that Jackson has no experience as a front office executive, and some people consider that a major problem.
I don't think it is. He'll hire a capable assistant who'll handle many of the details and surround himself with an experienced staff. Present general manager Steve Mills is likely to remain in the front office.
The main thing is that players will be attracted to the Knicks. They'll respect Jackson and they'll know he'll hire a coach who'll install the proper system to maximize their strengths.
This will be like Pat Riley going from coaching to running a team as an executive. It can work. Riley has proven that in Miami.
Jackson doesn't like to deal with agents but he can let an aide set everything up and then he swoopes in for the clincher.
What do the Lakers have to lose by keeping Jackson here? In Jim Buss' two years the Lakers were swept in the first round of the playoffs last season and won't qualify this season.
Two coaches hired since Jerry Buss died have failed to succeeed. Neither Mike Brown nor Mike D'Antoni has made much progress. Dwight Howard was pursued as a free agent and signed. But he didn't like his role in D'Antoni's offense and left.
With a different coach, Kevin McHale in Houston, Howard is thriving and the Rockets are one of the NBA's hottest teams
Howard doesn't need the ball all the time. Just enough to keep him satisfied. And he embraces the skill of high-scoring guard James Harden.
Steve Nash, now 40, appears at the end of his playing career after the Lakers signed him for three years.
I've been told Jim Buss kept on encouraging
Lakers' GM Mitch Kupchak to keep calling Nash even when it looked like Nash was heading for Toronto.
Steve Blake, a solid contributor, has been traded as the Lakers don't come close to resembling the smooth-running operation of the past.
Magic Johnson says Jim Buss doesn't listen to advice. If that's true it's a big mistake.
Jackson says he's not interested in coaching anymore and turned down the Knicks' offer for that role two weeks ago.
But, as Avery Johnson wonders, how will the Lakers let him leave when they need a big boost. When they need exactly what he can contribute.
And where will the Lakers be without him?