Only one day into their coaching search, the Lakers hardly wasted time meeting with who appears to be their leading candidate.
The Hall of Fame coach met with both general manager Mitch Kupchak and executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss Saturday about the Lakers’ head coaching position, according to Lakers spokesman John Black. No deal was reached, but all parties agreed to meet in a couple of days. Meanwhile, Bernie Bickerstaff will stay as the Lakers’ interim head coach for what Black described as “the immediate future,” including Sunday’s game against the Sacramento Kings.
The Lakers’ interest in Jackson seems to match that of the team’s fans. During the Lakers’ 101-77 win Friday over the Golden State Warriors, the 18,997 fans at Staples Center loudly chanted, “We want Phil!” The strong sentiment is understandable. Jackson won five of his 11 NBA championships with two separate stints with the Lakers (1999-2004, 2006-2011).
Will Jackson make a third trip?
That could largely depend on how Jackson believes he could handle the rigors of a demanding NBA schedule, including the excessive travel and late meals.
“If he’s offered something; thatd be a basis on where he starts,” according to a source close to Jackson.
But Jackson’s health has significantly improved ever since enjoying the past year in retirement, sources say.
Jackson underwent knee replacement surgery in March. One source close to him said the Hall-of-Fame coach continuously watches NBA games on League Pass and has sensed “he needs a job” because of all the extra free time he has. More importantly, Jackson has appeared more energetic since retiring May, 2011.
“He looks way healthier than he was,” said one source who has seen Jackson in recent weeks. “He’s able to move more.”
Kobe Bryant, who said he keeps in touch frequently with Jackson, said that variable would likely play the largest factor into whether he ultimately returns for his third gig with the Lakers.
“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 following the Lakers’ 101-77 victory Friday over the Golden State Warriors. “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.”