As details of the bizarre circumstances surrounding the Lakers' decision to hire Mike D'Antoni instead of Phil Jackson surface, it's becoming clear that the coaching legend was just as surprised as anyone that the team chose to go in a different direction.
The Los Angeles Lakers' coaching saga continues to unfold in the wake of the team's decision to hire former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach Mike D'Antoni to fill its coaching vacancy. According to ESPN LA's Dave McMenamin, Jackson released a statement that tells his side of the story:
"Saturday morning, [Lakers executive] 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 [team executive] Mitch Kupchak into my home to discuss the possibility of my return to the Lakers as head coach. We talked for over an hour and a half. No contractual terms were discussed and we concluded with a hand shake and an understanding that I would have until Monday (today) to come back to them with my decision."
Jackson's words are direct and don't say much in terms of the specifics discussed, but the implications are major. The fact that the team called him on Sunday in order to say that it was going to hire D'Antoni is a damning indictment on its business practices. Jackson was gracious in his statement, but he most certainly feels slighted and disrespected.
The news is especially puzzling because of Jackson's well-documented relationship with Executive Vice President of Business Operations Jeanie Buss. Somehow, the lines of communication were not as open as they should have been. The strange sequence of events also upset Jackson's agent.
Courtesy of ESPN LA's Ramona Shelburne:
Phil's agent, Todd Musburger tells ESPNLA: "Don't say you've got until Monday, then roust him at midnight to say, We hired somebody else.'— ramonashelburne (@ramonashelburne) November 13, 2012
It's not the first time the Lakers and Jackson have been at odds. Following his departure after the team failed to win its 17th NBA title, the team moved away from the triangle offense at Jim Buss' direction and made wholesale changes among the staff to reflect the difference in philosophy.