EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Phil Jackson said tonight that the Lakers’ move to sign Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant to three-year contract extensions would not impact his decision whether to coach the team beyond this season. He praised the move to re-sign each player, although neither has actually put ink to paper. (Gasol’s signing could come Monday or Tuesday and Bryant’s could follow soon). Jackson said his health and the team’s success would have the greatest impact on his future. Jackson is in the last season of a contract that pays him about $12 million.
Here’s more, in his own words:
“How the team does this year has a lot to do with it, too. They have a great chance to be a very good team for a while. Drew (Andrew Bynum) is locked in. That’s a great start from a standpoint of putting together a roster that has some commonality. They’ve played together. They give them a good base. There are a couple of other things that have to get done and they’re going to feel good about it.”
Question: When will you decide?
Answer: “June. July.”
Question: If you repeat, will that make a difference?
Answer: “Oh, sure. It really does. But it’s not a definitely that I would continue even we were to repeat.
Question: So, winning will determine whether you return?
Answer: “If things didn’t go well, if we didn’t win, that would obviously be something that would be … you would think maybe it would be time for someone else to look at this job and carry this team forward from there. That’s possibly not going to happen that way, where it’s going to be that kind of an issue. But just winning it outright doesn’t mean it’s a natural to come back and coach this team. I don’t see that as a natural thing. A lot of it has to do with the direction the league is going in. The direction the ownership wants to go in. You know, people are cutting costs all around the league, and that’s a big part of it. Coaches’ salaries are going to take a cut, too, along the way. They might not want to hire me, you know what I mean? They can save some money. They can’t write that off.
Question: So, You wouldn’t work for less?
Answer: “Why would you?”
Then he laughed.