Through it all, Phil Jackson couldn’t resist offering that mischievous grin.
He showed it as he walked alongside his fiance, Jeanie Buss, the Lakers executive vice president of business operations Wednesday night at a Time Warner Cable Media sponsored event to honor the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Jackson displayed that grin moments later when he reiterated that he has “no intentions” to coach again. He grinned again when he detailed the support he’s offered Dwight Howard.
But Jackson grinned the most anytime the topic involving Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss came up. Namely because even if Jackson described his relationship with his fiance’s brother as “casual,” the former Lakers coach couldn’t resist throwing a zing at him.
“He traveled with the team in 2001 or 2002,” Jackson said, beginning to smile. “Sometimes I’d leave him behind if he didn’t make the plane on time. But I’d do that to anybody who didn’t make the plane on time.”
This past November, the Lakers may have paid Jackson back for leaving Jim Buss waiting at the runway. He and Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak visited Jackson at his Playa Del Rey Residence to talk to him about coaching the Lakers again after firing Mike Brown following a 1-4 start. But they chose Mike D’Antoni instead. In related news, Jackson grinned widely when I asked Jeanie Buss if that situation soured her relationship with Jim.
“I was not happy with how things happened,” Jeanie said. “I just think it was a difficult process to go through. I was disappointed but I’m biased. I don’t think anybody would judge me to say (Phil) is the best coach in the entire world. That’s my prerogative to feel that way. They had their reasons for doing what they did but I kind of have that what if. What if he had coached.”
Plenty of Lakers fans have felt the same way, with their constant “We want Phil” chants at Staples Center capturing their dissatisfaction over the team’s first-round exit to the San Antonio Spurs. To their disappointment, Jackson won’t coach the Lakers again, but he has an unpaid and unofficial role as what Kupchak described as a “consultant of sorts.”
But that has only applied to conversations with Kupchak and Jeanie Buss. Jackson said he hasn’t spoken to Jim since the infamous visit in November about the coaching search. When he returned in 2005, Jackson said he talked “a lot about the team” with Jim, but that dialogue apparently faded in his last season ending in 2011.
“We just weren’t in each other’s company and he didn’t seek mine,” Jackson said. “He rarely comes to games. He went on the road a couple of times, but we just didn’t have a conversation about the future of the basketball club.”
Instead, Jackson left his future brother-in-law waiting to hop on the plane.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org