The crowd rose up and expressed their appreciation for Phil Jackson.
This scene has played out countless times at Staples Center where Lakers fans have belted out “We want Phil” chants in hopes he could coach the purple and gold again to championship prosperity. But the latest episode took place nearly 3,000 miles away in New York where fans greeted him with applause when the Knicks hosted the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden, marking Jackson’s first game as the franchise’s president of basketball operations.
“I’m excited for him. It sounds like it’s a great opportunity and they made a heck of a commitment to him,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told this newspaper, referring to the Knicks granting Jackson a five-year contract worth a reported $60 million. “He doesn’t want to coach. His mind is sharp and did want to stay involved with basketball. This is a great opportunity for him. I think he was bored, too.”
Could Jackson have served a front-office role with the Lakers?
Lakers president Jeanie Buss, who is engaged to Jackson, said in an interview aired Tuesday on Time Warner Cable SportsNet that Jackson “was not offered any official position.” That’s because the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss set up in his will that Jeanie will continue to oversee business operations while Jim Buss will continue to run basketball operations.
“I have sat down with Phil numerous times and talked basketball,” Kupchak said. “Because of the closeness of the organization, he was a consultant anyway. He was invested in the organization because of his relationship with Jeanie and accomplished so much here.”
Jackson won five of his 11 NBA championships coaching the Lakers (1999-2004, 2005-2011). But he does not have front-office experience.
“He said he would beat the bushes. But he won’t be beating the bushes at St. Mary’s or Stillwater or Waco. He’ll be beating a different bush,” Kupchak said, referring to Jackson’s likelihood he will not scout potential draft prospects. “He’s going to concentrate on the NBA.”
“My impression is he’s going to instill a culture and hire the correct people to do the job that needs to be done.”
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