Ball Don't Lie

Was Phil Jackson interested in taking over the Orlando Magic, and bringing Scottie Pippen in as coach?

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Phil Jackson instructs Scottie Pippen during the 1995-96 season (Getty Images)

This is a strange story, but a somewhat believable one. Former Orlando Magic guard and Charlotte Bobcat coach Sam Vincent, according to Vincent, attempted to recruit Phil Jackson to take over the Magic's GM opening before Jackson pulled out on Thursday evening. And, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel's Brian Schmitz, it appears as if Jackson wanted to bring Scottie Pippen along for the ride as coach to fill in the empty seat left behind by Stan Van Gundy two weeks ago, before passing on the project altogether. Schmitz doesn't reveal Pippen by name, as the candidate Vincent named is currently working for another NBA team, but just a short bit of research reveals the former Bulls star fits all the criteria as hinted at by the Sentinel scribe, as relayed by Vincent.

We're starting to enjoy how much Vincent goes on record. You'll recall that, earlier this year, he was sober and sound in his judgment that former Chicago teammate and Charlotte Bobcats boss Michael Jordan may have surrounded himself with too many yes-men to make up for his sometimes dodgy work ethic as personnel boss (ethic that was fine for an owner, but not for a hands-on GM, which Jordan is not anymore) as he took to running the Bobcats, comments he only slightly backed off on later. And now, in talking to Schmitz, he outlined a since-abandoned plan briefly pitched to Orlando CEO Alex Martins in the hopes that it could keep All-Star center Dwight Howard from asking for another trade, or leaving as a 2013 free agent. Here's Brian:

"It drew some interest from Phil," Vincent said. "But in the end, Phil decided to go with another opportunity." Jackson is apparently headed back to the NBA in some capacity, but he pulled out here before Martins had a chance to run it by owner Rich DeVos. Martins learned of Jackson's exit Thursday, but would not comment.

"Not because of this specific situation, but because I have been consistent during the search that I won't comment on specific candidates," Martins said in an e-mail. "I stand by my statement that we will put a premium on searching for Championship experience in the positions within in our search."

I love Martins' take on this. Even if the story coming from Vincent might be bunko, he smartly adds that he will be looking for someone with "championship experience" in his search, a scrap tossed to Magic fans as he essentially gives an extended "no comment" on the report. Even if the possibility of Jackson heading to Orlando never rose above half of 1 percent, Martins says enough to be square on all counts. Solid play, Alex.

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Sam Vincent

It's all apparently moot, because Jackson pulled out to "go with another opportunity," as Vincent described it. This could mean an impending gig as a head coach (which Vincent believes isn't in Jackson's interest), or a gig in an NBA front office. Either way, Jackson is out.

Not before, according to Vincent, the two brainstormed on how to put the new regime together. Vincent, who played for Chicago for a year and a half while Jackson was an assistant coach under Doug Collins, gave the lowdown to Schmitz:

That intermediary with Vincent was a former all-star player and Hall of Famer who, in Vincent's plan, was to be the next coach of the Magic. Jackson would help mentor him.

The former player has never coached before, but surrounded by Jackson and a coaching staff including Vincent — former Charlotte Bobcats coach — and a couple of Jackson's former Los Angeles Lakers assistant coaches — Frank Hamblen and Jim Cleamons — the hope was that he could learn on the fly.

I'd love to divulge the name of the former all-star player and would-be coach, but he's currently an employee of another NBA team.

So this is where we run a Friday morning dig-dug, looking at recent Hall of Fame inductees who have yet to work as a head coach of an NBA team, and still under contract with another organization.

Julius Erving? Hard to see him taking on a role like this so long (25 years, yikes) after retiring. But he is a former Magic employee (and current Philadelphia 76ers employee) who lives in the area.

Alex English? He has some assistant coaching experience, and currently works with the Sacramento Kings on their coaching staff.

Bob McAdoo? He's been on Pat Riley's staff for nearly two decades, and would seem to know quite a bit about the ins and outs of head coaching. But for McAdoo to take on his first head role at his age (61, in September) seems like quite a stretch.

Joe Dumars? Hard to believe he'd give up running his Detroit Pistons team with the full blessing of current ownership to coach a Magic squad while Phil Jackson calls all the shots.

Patrick Ewing? He seemed like the obvious unknown candidate until Schmitz mentioned that the would-be coach worked for "another" team.

Dennis Rodman? Probably not, sadly.

Michael Jordan? Kind of owns the Bobcats, though he possibly could get an exemption from David Stern. If not, probably would sell you the Bobcats in a second for the chance to go back to working with Phil Jackson. PLEASE, he says.

Scottie Pippen? Technically "works" for the Bulls, helps with the occasional practice and often acts as the face of the franchise for local events. A former Vincent teammate, it's interesting to note that Vincent only became a member of the Chicago Bulls because the team thought Sedale Threatt (who was traded for Vincent, back in 1988) was too much of a bad influence on rookies Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant.

Of recent inductees, over the last 20 years, these are the only candidates that fit that criteria (never a head coach, Hall of Famer, employee of another team) save for Ewing.

All signs would point to Pippen, in that regard. Jackson has unending respect for his former team leader, and after a few years off after retiring following the 2003-04 season Pippen has taken a greater interest in the NBA game. Though he's never even worked as an assistant coach, Pippen possesses significant basketball IQ; though we submit that this is no substitute for leadership at times. Still, even without discussing the criteria listed above (Hall of Fame resume, All-Star appearances), outside of former Jackson assistant Brian Shaw, Scottie Pippen would seem to be the perfect potential Phil Jackson coaching project.

This is all just fun speculation, made all the happier by the fact that Vincent (once again) is going on record, and Schmitz is relaying Vincent's words.

In a semi-offseason that has 26 teams currently with poles in the water as the NBA playoffs drone on, we thank them both for it.

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