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NBA AM: Buss Leaves Door Open For Phil Jackson
Posted By Yannis Koutroupis On August 9, 2013 @ 9:40 am In Main Page,NBA | No Comments
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The Los Angeles Lakers have never been surrounded by more question marks. The franchise is entering a new era with the passing of Dr. Jerry Buss in February. While Jerry’s role had slowly reduced in recent years, there was still a certain amount of legitimacy and stability that came with his presence.
Jeanie oversees the business side of things, while Jim is in charge of basketball operations. Early last season, Jim and the rest of the front office, which included general manager Mitch Kupchak and his father still at the time, decided that it was time to make a coaching change and fired Mike Brown.
Jeanie, who is also the longtime girlfriend and now fiancée of Phil Jackson, saw it as an opportunity to bring him back, but Jim and company did not view him as the best fit. They went with Mike D’Antoni instead, citing his up tempo style as a better fit for the $100 million roster they invested in.
“A lot of people think that I must have hard feelings because Mike D’Antoni’s the coach and not Phil,” Jeanie Buss said to ESPNLA 710. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. Mike D’Antoni isn’t the reason that Phil’s not the coach. I don’t have any issue with him.”
Since the basketball side did not feel like bringing Jackson back was the right move, Jeanie has since sought out help from Phil for business matters. However, she does not feel like he’s done coaching.
“Who am I going to turn to that I know doesn’t have an agenda,” Jeanie Buss said. “He wants the Lakers to do well. He wants Kobe [Bryant] to be successful, he wants Pau Gasol to be successful. Phil got a lot invested into this team because he knows it’s what’s going to make me happy.
“I don’t know how things are going to turn out. I just don’t think he’s done contributing yet. I think he’s got a lot to give.”
Jackson was half-heartedly a part of the Lakers’ pitch to re-sign All-Star center Dwight Howard. He tweeted Howard on the opening of free agency and even said he was amendable to meeting with him, but it never happened. Instead the Lakers posted billboards around town and had multiple other celebrities filmed for their presentation, but Phil, nor Jeanie was present for the actual meeting.
Howard ended up leaving the Lakers to sign with the Houston Rockets, a move Jeanie couldn’t see happening if her dad was still alive.
“They would’ve probably had a better relationship if my dad hadn’t been sick,” Jeanie Buss said. “When it came to try to convince Dwight to stay, we lost the best closer in the business in Dr. Buss.
“Putting up the billboard maybe wasn’t the right thing. But we maybe have to learn to do things differently because Dr. Buss isn’t here anymore. People said of the billboards ‘Oh, that’s not the Laker way.’ Well, the Laker way isn’t the same, because Dr. Buss isn’t here.”
Jeanie ensures that there’s nothing to read into regarding her absence at the meeting with Howard and that her relationship with Jim and the rest of the family is fine.
“I think it was redundant,” Jeanie Buss said. “My brother was there to represent ownership, so I don’t really think there was any reason for me to be there.
“I have a great relationship with all my brothers. I’ve got three other ones. There’s four boys and two girls. It’s a family business. The way my dad set things up was for me to oversee the business side and for my brother to oversee the basketball side. I know my dad felt that was a good system and that’s the system we’re trying to make work.
“I’m held accountable for the things that ahpen with the organization with the NBA. I’m the governor of the team. If something goes on with the team, I’m the one who gets the call from the NBA. So I think the communication I have with my brother is important, because I need to understand what is going on with those decisions. I enjoy hearing from the fans, but they have to understand that I have a job already. I can’t take on anymore. This was something my dad set up and I think it’s important we move forward with what he put into place. And like I said, I have a great relationship with all my brothers.”
Internal continuity will be key for the Lakers. Jim, Jeanie and the rest of the family have large shoes to fill and the best way for them to live up to expectations is with a united front.
With that said, though, Jackson is a big part of Jeanie’s life. As long as there’s the slightest bit of doubt about who they have at head coach, she’s going to want Phil there, as does most of the Lakers’ sizeable, passionate fan base. Next to Jackson, who continues to say he’s done coaching, nobody knows what he’s capable of better than Jeanie. If she thinks he has something left in the tank, he just may, and that will only keep the idea of a future return out there.
The Lakers have hopes and aspirations of luring away some big name free agents next offseason, and their best chance to get a guy like Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James may include offering them the opportunity to play for one of the greatest coaches ever.
As Jeanie pointed out, they lost one of the best closers in the business in Dr. Buss. But, Jackson’s no slouch when it comes to closing himself.
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