For the first time this season, Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson has indicated he may not be back with the club next year. Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com managed to get some insight into The Zen Master for a piece he wrote over the weekend.
Apparently, having been burned by Jerry Reinsdorf in the past, Jackson is still leery of owners for whom he’s won multiple championships going cheap and showing him the door. Even ones with whom he’s sleeping with their daughter.
The Lakers won a championship last season and are poised for a repeat. They are currently a league best 21-4. Jackson has more rings and won more championships as a coach (10) than anyone in the history of the league. Lest anyone forget, the last time Jackson took off from the Lakers, in 2005, the team was a pathetic 34-48 (that was the year a self-obsessed Kobe Bryant scored 84 and eventually demanded to be traded.) Jackson returned to the Lakers and, not coincidentally, order was restored. Championships were won. The last man not named Phil Jackson to coach the Lakers was Frank Hamblen. He went 10-29. That’s a winnin percentage of .256.
Why in God’s name would the Lakers even THINK of letting Jackson go? Money. Jackson makes $12 million a year. Bryant will make $25 million in 2010-11. He is in line for a $90 million contract extension. Pau Gasol is also reportedly close to signing a big-money three year contract extension.
Jackson points out “people are cutting cost” around the league. He says of the Lakers,
“They may not even want to hire me. They may want to save some money.”
Make no mistake. Despite having the NBA’s highest payroll, Lakers owner Jerry Buss is looking to save money. There are rumors that Buss has incurred “substantial” gambling losses. More tangible was an article in the L.A. Business Journal which points out that Buss has recently sold his hockey team, his $3.8 million coin collection, his ranch and his Beverly Hills mansion. All in an effort to raise much needed cash.
DR. JERRY BUSS: IS HIS BEING SUCH A BAD POKER PLAYER GOING TO COST THE LAKERS PHIL JACKSON?