As he sat comfortably in his bed, Phil Jackson suddenly heard the phone ring.
On the other line was Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak with some news he hadn’t expected to hear. The team had just hired Mike D’Antoni about a half hour beforehand to a three-year, $12 million deal with a team option the fourth year.
So much for the Hall of Fame coach having a meeting with Kupchak and executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss at his home in Playa del Rey about possibly coaching the Lakers in his third stint.
That’s how Jackson said things transpired in a statement he released on Monday.
“Saturday morning, Jim Buss called to ask if he could come and visit. I didn’t solicit or ask for the opportunity but I welcomed both him and Mitch Kupchak into my home to discuss the possibility of my return to the Lakers as head coach,” Jackson said.
“We talked for over an hour and a half. No contractual terms were discussed and we concluded with a handshake and an understanding that I would have until Monday [today] to come back to them with my decision. I did convey to them that I did have the confidence that I could do the job. I was awakened at midnight Sunday by a phone call from Mitch Kupchak. He told me that the Lakers had signed Mike D’Antoni to a three-year agreement and that they felt he was the best coach for the team. The decision is of course theirs to make. I am gratified by the groundswell of support from the Laker fans who encouraged my return and it is the principal reason why I considered the possibility.”
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