Via Larry Brown Sports:
The Los Angeles Lakers pulled off a stunner when they decided to hire Mike D’Antoni as their new basketball coach when it looked like Phil Jackson was going to get the job. Now we’re hearing from Jackson that the team went back on its agreement with him, and another report says he wasready to accept the head coaching job.
Jackson told his side of the story in a statement (via the LA Times):
“Saturday morning, Jim Buss, called to ask if he could come and visit. I did not solicit or ask for the opportunity, but I welcomed both he and Mitch Kupchak into my home to discuss the possibility of my return to the Lakers as the head coach. We talked for over an hour and a half. No contractual terms were discussed and we concluded with a hand shake and an understanding that I would have until Monday (today) to come back to them with my decision.
“I did convey to them that I did have the confidence that I could do the job. I was awakened at midnight on Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D’Antoni to a 3-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team.
“The decision is of course theirs to make.
“I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker Fans who endorsed my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.”
ESPN LA also says Jackson was prepared to take the job so long as the contract negotiations went well. Instead, as Jackson is portraying things, the Lakers worked behind his back and just decided to hire D’Antoni.
Yahoo! Sports says matters are not as simple as Jackson makes them seem. Marc J. Spears reported on Sunday night that Jackson had several demands if he were to take control of the team, including a large salary and control over personnel decisions. Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski went into greater detail on this issue, reporting that the Lakers resisted Jackson’s “power grab” by hiring someone else. If you read Woj’s report, you’ll come away thinking that Jackson was hardly a victim.
Jackson’s agent, Todd Musburger, has also gone into full-on defense mode. He is trying to spin things in Jackson’s favor by discrediting the reports about his contractual demands.
“There were no demands, outrageous or otherwise,” Musburger told ESPN LA. “To say that he wanted control or that he wanted a zillion dollars or that he wanted equity, those were not topics discussed in the meeting between Kupchak, Buss and Phil. If the Lakers didn’t spread those things, the fact they didn’t take an affirmative stance to correct the record is very troublesome.”
I believe the reports from Yahoo! saying that Jackson had incredible demands, and that the Lakers chose D’Antoni as a way of telling Jackson to stick it. The only real question is whether it was a good move by the Lakers. I don’t think it was.
As for whether or not they’re a championship team, apparently Jackson is leery.
Jackson wouldn’t return if he didn’t think the team could win a championship. Maybe he felt he could be the difference.
We’ll know over the next several months whether the Lakers made the right decision. What we do know is that this has been the latest dramatic chapter in Hollywood’s wildest reality show.