Another Jackson is in the news, everything old is new again, dogs and cats sleep together, and Phil and Kobe reunite a year after the coaching guru was let go by Lakers owner Jerry Buss after four Finals appearances and three three NBA championships in five seasons.
A news conference is set for 5 p.m. EDT at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Jackson, 59, agreed to a three-year contract believed to be worth between $7 million and $10 million per year, which would make him the highest-paid NBA coach ever.
When Jackson was summarily dismissed a year ago, Biggest Man Shaquille O’Neal demanded a trade and superstar Kobe Bryant opted out of his contract to become a free agent the same day Jackson’s five-year run as coach ended. O’Neal was traded to Miami and Bryant stayed with the Lakers, who finished a disastrous 34-48 last season, 11th place in the 15-team Western Conference, three games behind perennial cross-town doormats the Clippers, and out of the playoffs for just the second time since 1976.
The Lakers won a bidding war for Jackson between themselves, Cleveland Cavaliers, Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks, for whom Jackson played 11 seasons. Rudy Tomjanovich succeeded Jackson as lakers coach, signing a five-year, $30 million contract, but he lasted barely half a season, citing health reasons when he abruptly resigned in February.
Jackson’s name came up as a possible replacement almost immediately despite his having written a book detailing the 2003-04 season in which he called Bryant uncoachable and said other unkind things about the storied franchise. He was seen at the Lakers’ El Segundo offices numerous times after Tomjanovich’s resignation, and Jackson also attended a game at Staples Center in Jerry Buss’ luxury suite in April, captured very publicly on national TV.
Hey, a winning coach is a winning coach, and Jackson isn’t even evil or anything.
Bryant released a semi-positive statement through his agent, Rob Pelinka, shortly after the hiring was announced. “When the Lakers began the search for a new head coach, I put my complete trust in Dr. Buss and (general manager) Mitch Kupchak to select the person they thought was best for the Lakers’ organization,” Bryant said in the statement. “In Phil Jackson, they chose a proven winner. That is something I support.”
Jackson has coached nine NBA championship teams, six with the Chicago Bulls and three with the Lakers, tying him with former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach for the most in league history.