When Phil Jackson retired from the Los Angeles Lakers after the 2011-12 season, it was assumed that he would only return to the NBA for a very high-profile job, whether that involved turning a good team into a great one or joining a marquee franchise like the New York Knicks. No one thought that he would go to a small-market team, let alone one with a rebuilding period in the offing. You know, because one of the two or three best coaches in basketball history typically doesn't have to do such a thing.
For the last few months, the Trail Blazers have been in back-and-forth discussions with Phil Jackson in an attempt to persuade him to take their head coaching vacancy, a close source said.
Last week, Jackson's agent, Todd Musburger, informed the Trail Blazers that Jackson was flattered, but has decided he would not coach this upcoming season.
Olshey confirmed that the organization did chase Jackson, but wouldn't comment further on the matter. However he did have this to say, "He (Phil Jackson) decided it wasn't time."
I don't know how Haynes is defining "back-and-forth discussions," but I imagine that to mean that the Blazers offered Jackson the job, he turned it down without trying to hurt their feelings too much, and the team responded by taking his kindness for possible interest and pressed him to accept. Let this be a lesson to everyone: when suitors show interest, it's best to give a firm answer and not lead them on.
The Blazers are a fine organization, but it is incredibly difficult to believe that Jackson would ever coach them. For one thing, as presently constructed, they will depend on big contributions from rookie Damion Lillard, a promising young player whose impact would be severely minimized in Jackson's triangle offense. On top of that, Jackson has never had to lead a rebuilding effort in his NBA coaching career. The idea that he'd want to coach this team, in a city where he has no connections beyond his friendliness with Nike, is just bizarre. Plus, as far as I know, Jackson's health issues prohibit him from taking full advantage of Portland's many bike lanes.
Nevertheless, we should get used to reports like this one in the future. While Jackson probably won't coach any team for the foreseeable future, he's still a very well-regarded coach who happens to be unemployed. As long as he's available, teams will offer him jobs. They might never be successful, but asking can never hurt.
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