Phil Jackson has just made the Detroit Pistons' head-coaching job the last one anyone will ever want to interview for. The 11-time NBA champion coach will advise GM Joe Dumars and owner Tom Gores during the search for a coach to replace Lawrence Frank, who was sent packing in the season's wake. Can you imagine interviewing for the job and having to sit across from the Zen Master to ply your B.S.?
Because that's what it appears much of the coaching dance is: he who can peddle the best malarkey wins. I'll never forget the stories that came out of Eric Musselman's successful interview with the Sacramento Kings in 2006. It was something like a two-hour PowerPoint presentation that blew the Maloofs and Geoff Petrie away. It hit all the key points -- the importance of defense, accountability and connecting with the fans through positive interaction. Musselman got a DUI in the preseason, lost the locker room remarkably early in the season and reportedly didn't speak to lead assistant Scott Brooks for months. That PowerPoint must have been really good.
Honestly, I think having Jackson in the process, even if he doesn't dedicate time to sit in on interviews, cuts a lot of the nonsense out right off of the top. These candidates will be too nervous he'll call them out on gimmick stuff ... even though he's sort of the King of Gimmicks, with his book club, novelty offense and Eastern philosophy. If I'm a candidate walking into the Palace to convince Jackson and Dumars to hire me, I'm going to focus entirely on Xs and Os, not how I'm a master motivator that speaks on players' levels and can get them to practice hard on Christmas morning. Jackson knows how hard it is to get players consistently motivated.
The real endgame here is, of course, to spread Jackson's coaching tree. He doesn't currently have one acolyte in a head-coach role in the NBA. Kurt Rambis spent two miserable years in charge of the Timberwolves, and Brian Shaw is likely to have a job next season. That's it. Jim Cleamons had a head coach stint with Dallas years ago, and Bill Cartwright spent some time running the Bulls. But neither of those guys are in play for current openings (at least publicly) and neither produced their own acolytes.
Unless Rambis gets another chance, which, man, that's going to be tough, Shaw is it. He's the only viable branch on the coach tree for Jackson. It seems obvious that he would end up taking over Detroit with Jackson advising, so long as the 76ers don't scoop him up first. (He'd also be a hot rumor in Sacramento if that issue is settled in time.)
So if this happens according to plan, Jackson gets a chance to give his coaching tree a much-needed boost. Win-win. Phil Jackson remains a step ahead of everyone else.
Editor's Note: An original version of this story suggested Jackson would get a stipend from Gores for his work. ESPN reports that Jackson will not be paid. We have taken out that line to reflect the news.