Kobe Bryant candid about Phil Jackson
by Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — If the latest Lakers drama was told by way of the team-issued quote sheet on Friday night, one never would have known what really transpired in the aftermath of coach Mike Brown’s firing earlier in the day.
According to the documentation following a much-needed 101-77 rout over Golden State that improved Los Angeles to 2-4, Kobe Bryant’s time with the media was spent discussing 1) interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff and 2) the latest performances of Pau Gasol, Darius Morris, and Jodie Meeks.
In truth, however, the possible return of former Lakers coach Phil Jackson was the only topic of discussion that truly mattered.
Bryant made it clear that his retired mentor is atop his list of coaching candidates to replace Brown, wasting no time before paying tribute to Jackson and openly campaigning for him to return. And with strong indications that Jackson is No. 1 on both Bryant’s and the front office’s list, the wait now begins to see who comes next.
“You guys know how I feel about Phil,” Bryant said. “The one thing that’s kind of always bothered me is that his last year (in 2011) I wasn’t able to give him my normal self, you know what I mean? Because I was playing on one leg. That’s always eaten away at me. The last year of his career I wasn’t able to give him everything I had.”
Jackson’s exit was unflattering, indeed, with his team being swept by the eventual NBA champion Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Semifinals, and former Lakers Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom being ejected for bush-league moves in Game 4.
“He’s too great of a coach to go out that way,” Bryant said. “That’s my personal sentiment. For me, it was just … I took it to heart because I couldn’t give it everything that I had, because my knee was shot. That’s always kind of bothered me.”
With Jackson considered the top priority in the search, former Suns and Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni — just like every candidate who hasn’t won five championships with the Lakers — is believed to be second in this … [For more on Kobe Bryant candid about why he wants Phil Jackson to return as Lakers coach, click here.]