Phil Jackson apologized to Stan Van Gundy on Friday, in his own inimitable, not-quite-an-apology fashion.
I've been observing Phil Jackson bat things around with reporters for 20 years, and it's always an entertaining watch. Not only does he take bemusement to another level, laughing down his sleeve at you on the inside while keeping things cool and detached on the outside, the Lakers coach remains a master at evading blame, for whatever the hell he just said.
Refs? Too many shots for his players? A suspension he didn't like? A league rule he's not fond of? Phil just squints, gives a shot, and feigns sincerity when pressed. And, actually, he's pretty sincere about some of his nicer more outward observations, but he has a way of making it come off so catty and insincere that it's, it's ... c'est magnifique.
And in his initial remarks to the press following the brouhaha that erupted after he suggested that Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra could be let go in the same dubious manner that Stan Van Gundy (trying to keep Stan happy, here) may have according to NBA legend been possibly let go by the Heat five years ago, well, you can practically see Jackson smiling and squinting from wherever you're at.
"It was an off-handed remark about if things continue to go poorly for Miami, what might happen," Jackson said after his team's morning shootaround in preparation for the Utah Jazz. "But, obviously Stan felt that he had to say something. Unfortunately he got defensive about it. I didn't mean to do that. I should apologize because I do know about his situation."
That was the apology. Now for the jab.
"Stan was going home to be with his family and that was his reason for leaving," Jackson said. "I have no idea about the rest of it; why he came back out [to a head coaching job] after retiring and being with his family. But, that's his decision and fine."
The 65-year old Hall of Famer sounded more contrite when considering how his comments could have been perceived by Spoelstra.
"I'm not throwing any aspersions on Spoelstra," Jackson said. "He's a very fine young coach."
Not throwing aspersions, sure, but why exactly did Stan Van Gundy come back to coach the Magic 18 months later? This is me talking as Phil, you see. He's not saying, he's just sayin' ...