Soon after the Los Angeles Lakers fired Mike Brown, it seemed inevitable that Phil Jackson would return to become the head coach. A few days later, it appears that Jackson’s time in L.A. may be done for good.
The Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni on Monday morning to be their head coach. Jackson was never offered the job, even though he was under the impression that he was the team’s first choice.
D’Antoni has a good track record in the regular season. He led the Phoenix Suns to three straight division titles and won over 60 games twice.
Jackson, however, can make a case to be considered the best NBA coach ever. He’s won 11 rings in 20 years, and reached the NBA Finals in 65 percent of his seasons as a head coach.
With Jackson’s impeccable resume, why did Los Angeles decide to go with D’Antoni? Here are five reasons why Jackson wasn’t hired:
The team is claiming that the decision was made for basketball reasons, with owner Jerry Buss, vice president Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak feeling that D’Antoni is the “best coach for the team at this time." However, there may have been other factors in the decision.
Jackson wanted to return to Los Angeles, but a deal hadn’t been struck over the weekend because the two sides were still negotiating. Reports came out that Jackson had some specific demands as the Lakers future head coach. The Hall of Famer reportedly wanted some ownership stake in the club, and was asking for more money than the Lakers were willing to pay.
Sources close to Jackson have denied the demands, but L.A. may have felt that Jackson was asking for too much.
One of the biggest concerns regarding Jackson has been his health. At 67 years old, Jackson would be the oldest coach in the NBA. There’s a chance that his age and health issues could have been an issue for the club.
There was talk about Jackson being able to miss some road games. L.A. wants to have a coach who can travel with the team throughout the season.
Seven games into the 2012-2013 season, it might not be difficult for Jackson to make it through the entire season. However, there are questions about how long he would be able to coach the Lakers past 2013. With Dwight Howard set to test the free agent market in the summer, it would behoove L.A. to ensure the big man that they don’t have a tenuous situation at head coach.
If the Lakers were to bring in Jackson, Buss would likely have to hand over some control of the team to the Hall of Famer. With his experience and history of success, Jackson would be vocal about how the team is run.
D’Antoni doesn’t have the track record to make those kinds of demands. He has never reached the NBA Finals, and isn’t a legendary basketball figure.
When Jackson retired, Buss hired Mike Brown and gained more control over the Lakers decision-making than he ever had. He might not be willing to part with that after less than two years
D’Antoni struggled with the New York Knicks, finishing over .500 in just one of four seasons. When he was with the Suns, they were consistently one of the best teams in the league.
Now, the Lakers are hoping D’Antoni and Nash can relive their glory days from Phoenix. L.A. took a risk in the offseason, trading draft picks and signing the aging veteran to a three-year contract. In his first two games with Los Angeles, he looked like a shell of his old self.
If D’Antoni and Nash can find the magic that they had a few years ago, it might quiet any critics that question why Jackson wasn’t hired.
The Lakers and Jackson had a lot of success together, but it may be time to move on. L.A. was a different team a few years ago, and is heading in a new direction.
Kobe Bryant has just two years left on his contract, and stated that he might retire when his deal is up. If Howard agrees to an extension, he will eventually be the new face of the franchise.
Jackson is an all-time great, but the Lakers are heading in a new direction. Bringing back an old head coach might not be the answer.