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Former coach of the Los Angeles Lakers Phil Jackson during a news conference at the Lakers training facility on May 11, 2011 in El Segundo, California.
Phil Jackson back with the Los Angeles Lakers?
A day after the surprise announcement of coach Mike Brown's termination from the Los Angeles Lakers comes a juicy (albeit unconfirmed and unnamed) whisper from a team insider who says the return of the franchise's winningest coach to the struggling (albeit stacked) team looks good.
The L.A. Times is reporting that "one person in the organization [is] calling it a '95%' chance [Jackson] will return for a third tour with the team."
But should he? With 11 championship rings as a coach he certainly has nothing else to prove. And who needs the headache of trying to live up to the bloated expectations that comes with not just coaching the Lakers, but these Lakers who, when healthy, should beat any team it faces.
The "Zen Master" retired after the disappointing 2010-11 season that came to an end when the Dallas Mavericks swept his final Lakers team in the playoffs.
On Friday, Kobe Bryant admitted that he's always felt bad that the long-time coach ended his dazzling NBA career on the sour note.
"The one thing that's kind of always bothered me is that in his last year I wasn't able to give him my normal self," Kobe Bryant, who only scored 18 points in the final game of the Dallas playoff series, told reporters last night at Staples Center. "I was playing on one leg and that's kind of always eaten away at me. The last year of his career I wasn't able to give him all I had."
Bryant, 34, continued: "He's too great of a coach to have it go out that way. That's my personal sentiment. I took it to heart because I couldn't give it everything I had because I physically couldn't. My knee was shot. That's always bothered me."
During a long press conference on Friday, Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak was asked if the team was considering the 67-year-old coach who won titles during different eras with Michael Jordan, Shaquille O'Neal, and Bryant.
"When there's a coach like Phil Jackson, one of the all-time greats, and he's not coaching, I think we'd be negligent not to be aware that he's out there," Kupchak said. "We're putting together a list and an attack plan. We haven't reached out to anyone at this time."
Although most would think that Jackson is on a special list all his own, one person who doesn't think the coach will return is Gary Payton. Known as "The Glove", the notoriously trash-talking former point guard, was coached by Jackson in the unsuccessful 2003-04 season that featured the star-studded line-up of O'Neal, Bryant, Payton, Karl Malone, and Devean George.
Payton told Fox Sports Florida that he didn't think Jackson would be interested in coaching the current star-studded lineup, that includes Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, "because he'd be going back into a situation where they blasted him when he left. You heard all that stuff [from the Lakers] when he left that they didn't want to hire anybody affiliated with Phil Jackson's system. That's why they didn't hire [then-Lakers assistant Brian Shaw]. They fired everybody that was affiliated with Phil."
Bryant, however, told reporters that the decision might rest not on forgiveness, but in health. The 6-foot 8-inch Jackson went through a successful knee replacement surgery in March.
"Knowing him the way I do, I think it's really just a matter of health, if he feels physically up to doing it," Bryant said. "He's a perfectionist. We all know he's a perfectionist. If he feels like he can come in here and give what he demands from himself, then I think he would be interested."
The Lakers won last night's game in interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff's debut. The team is now 2-4 in the young season.
So should Phil Jackson come back to the Lakers and end his third foray into retirement? Chime in below.