LOS ANGELES – Kobe Bryant respects the possible replacements for Mike Brown as the Los Angeles Lakers' next head coach. As a child in Italy, Bryant became a fan of Mike D'Antoni while watching him play. Bryant previously endorsed ex-teammate Brian Shaw to replace Phil Jackson as the team's coach. But even with all that politically correct talk, there is one coach Bryant would like to fill the big shoes Jackson left behind two seasons ago. Jackson himself.
Lakers fans also voiced the same sentiment, chanting, "We Want Phil" in the second half of the Lakers' much-needed 101-77 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
"We have a good enough relationship where he knows where I stand," Bryant told Yahoo! Sports after scoring a game-high 27 points in just the Lakers' second win in six games this season. "He's realistically the greatest coach to ever coach in any sport. It's as simple as that. He's that for a reason. When you have the greatest coach of all time in any profession out there available you have to reach out to him."
Jackson epitomized winning in Los Angeles, claiming five titles here and 11 overall in 20 seasons. The "Zen Master" was beloved in L.A. for his intelligence, successful Triangle offense, book recommendations to players, quoting of motivational phrases and having the guts to date the owner's daughter. He managed the egos of Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal and brought the best out of the eccentric Metta World Peace.
Jackson's shadow was so large that Brown appeared to be in a no-win proposition from the moment he took the job. Brown led the Lakers to a second-round appearance in the playoffs last season, but after starting 1-4 this season he was abruptly fired Friday.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said he paid attention to the chants at Staples Center.
"Phil has been here and he had five championships and he won with us," Kupchak said. "That's who they remember. I'm not surprised at all. He deserves that type of recognition."
Other candidates for the Lakers job include D'Antoni, Shaw, Nate McMillan and Mike Dunleavy Jr., according to sources. Kupchak told Yahoo! Sports a new coach could be hired in "four or five days." Meanwhile, the Lakers will be coached by veteran Bernie Bickerstaff until a replacement is found. Kupchak said Bickerstaff will likely coach Sunday's game against the Sacramento Kings and Tuesday versus the San Antonio Spurs.
"You don't want to rush," Kupchak said. "To some level there is some due diligence to do. It is probably going to come down to a couple or three candidates and you probably can't go wrong on either of them. But there is a lot more than that. There is a negotiation. You want to get the right guy. On one hand you are not going to rush through it.
"But it's not like we're starting a process where we don't know any of the candidates out there. We know them all."
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The Lakers also know Jackson is the best and he is the overwhelming favorite.
"No. I don't feel pressure," Kupchak said. "There is nothing wrong with hiring Phil Jackson. It's not a bad thing."
The Lakers are already paying Brown $4 million this season. Jackson could cost three times that. If the Lakers want Jackson back, Kupchak says Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss won't blink an eye.
"Dr. Buss' position is if he wants somebody he can always get that person," Kupchak said. "I don't think there will be any financial obstacles in place. It has never been that way."
Bryant spoke glowingly about his conversations with Jackson. He also spoke of wishing that Jackson finish his Lakers career on a better note. During Jackson's last game, an injured Bryant and the Lakers were swept in the second round of the 2011 playoffs, an embarrassing 122-86 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Jackson would certainly have stronger talent to work with this time around with Bryant, Pau Gasol and newcomers Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
[Yahoo! Sports Radio: Adrian Wojnarowski on Phil Jackson's relationship with Buss family]
While Bryant waved the flag for Jackson's return, he's prepared for another face on the bench.
"[Jackson] taught me how to deal with these types of situations," Bryant said. "I wouldn't be disappointed. I'd just be, which is what he taught me to be in the first place."
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