The man maintains he has no more interest in coaching, but that’s not stopping Phil Jackson from expressing how the Lakers could’ve fared better than an early first-round playoff exit.
He believed the Lakers misused Dwight Howard’s talents so much in the 2012-13 season that the former Lakers coach would sound hardly surprised if he decided to leave this offseason via free agency.
“Would you if you felt like your game wasn’t going to be featured?” Jackson said Tuesday on The Dan Patrick Show.
Howard hasn’t divulged his thought process during his exit interview, other than saying he will stay patient with making his decision. But as he spent the past week in Lake Tahoe, Calif fly fishing, those familiar with Howard’s thought process say he plans to test free agency once July 1 hits and assess which option would give him the best chance to win his first NBA championship. Such possibilities could include the Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors, though nothing remains binding.
The Lakers have the rich history (16 NBA championship) and the marketing power going for them. But Howard’s first season here featured plenty of tough moments. He nursed various injuries, including a surgically repaired back and a torn labrum in his right shoulder. Howard averaged 17 points and a league-leading 12.4 rebounds, his lowest numbers since the 2006-07 season. He experienced frustrations, ranging from Kobe Bryant’s demanding leadership style, D’Antoni’s offense that centered less on post play and constant physical contact. That all heightened when Howard was ejected in the Lakers’ Game 4 loss three weeks ago to the Spurs.
“You have to play into Dwight Howard,” Jackson said. “You have to give back and reestablish hima s the center he was potentially going to be. This year, he had four or five less touches in the post. Most of them he got in there was on the move. There wasn’t anything that it was let’s get the ball in a good position and let Dwight figure out how he’s going to get a shot or get guys open because they’ll double team. That’s not Mike’s style.”
But Jackson said this isn’t necessarily a coaching issue.
“I don’t blame Mike for that,” Jackson said. That’s the ownership or management made that decision. That was the decision they have to live with, but now it’s a critical time will Dwight stay with them or leave? Now they have to figure out will we use this guy in the best possible form and support him in this role?”
How do they do that?
“He’s got to be the keystone on what that future is about in that organization,” Jackson said. “Kobe [Bryant] is going to come back and will be on fire. But there’s only a certain limitation with what oyu’re going to have with an Achilles recovery. There’s definitely going to be a difference in his game and same pop that’s going to be there.”
A read through his 337-page memoir shows Phil Jackson honestly comparing Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The former Lakers coach sounds appreciative albeit honest about his struggles and successes coaching Bryant. For old time’s sake, Jackson also tweaks Bulls general manager Jerry Reinsdorf for how he alienated several players on his Chicago teams.
But Jackson specifically refused to detail how the Lakers passed him up for the coaching job after firing Mike Brown five games into the season. Jackson also doesn’t provide commentary on the season itself.
“I felt I didn’t want to go back and rehash the Lakers situation,” Jackson said. “It happened while we were in the final edit of the book. So I said let’s just not go back and rehash that again. There’s no reason to go into depth with that.”
He went plenty in depth with it on Patrick’s show, namely about his 90 minute discussion at his Playa Del Rey residence with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and vice president of player personnel Jim Buss about the coaching position.
“I sat on that for two days and wondered what would compel me to come back and coach this team,” Jackson said. “Yes, I thought I could do the job. I had five or six players from the former run we had and I felt like they were schooled well enough in the offensive system that I ran that they felt they could really step right in and play. I felt it would be pretty easy for Nash and Howard to learn the system. It’s an easy system to learn.”
Still, Jackson maintained uncertainty on whether he would have even taken the coaching job.
“I never had a feeling that this was the right thing to do and that it must be done. I told Jeanie [Buss] at one point when I went and talked to her about it, I said maybe we’d get out of the Western Conference,” Jackson said, referring to his fiance and the Lakers’ vice president of business operations. “We’re a good enough team and there’s a talented enough team. But boy I’d sure hate to lose in the Finals again. I started thinking about how one has to beat Miami.”
Jackson said he won’t go through that exercise again. He said in certain terms he’s no longer interested in coaching, so much that he even turned down the Brooklyn Nets’ efforts to hire him. Instead, Jackson reiterated his stance in wanting to work in a team’s front office. That apparently would have come to fruition had the NBA Board of Governors approved Chris Hansen’s bid to purchase the Sacramento Kings and relocate them to Seattle.
“I thought he was dynamic and thought he had great ideas,” Jackson said. “He went through the whole process of getting the arena. He did everything right except win the franchise. His vision, I can buy into. I thought he had the right vision for a team. He made basically the offer to take what you want to take as a job, a consultant if you want to be a owner, be a part owner, be a consultant or work int heb asketball oiperations side of it you want to. or coach. it didnt matter to him. we talked about a number of things that would progress the team if they would move.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org