The shadow of Phil Jackson might always hang over the Lakers franchise; he was at the epicenter when the team was last great and is engaged to Lakers executive Jeanie Buss. But the notion that he might return to save the Lakers seemed to die when Jackson, 69, signed a five-year deal in March to run the Knicks.
Is it out of the question, however, that Jackson might return to the city where he still owns a house before 2019?
Jackson seems to be musing about just that.
His debut season as an NBA front-office executive has been a disaster, not that the Knicks president is shying away from that fact as the team sits at 10-39, the worst mark in the Eastern Conference and second worst in the league overall.
“Like nothing I’ve seen before,” Jackson told the New York Times' Harvey Araton in a story published in Wednesday’s editions. “So far, my experiment has fallen flat on its face.”
There are some rather interesting remarks from Jackson in the Times piece that Lakers fans might want to examine, as they appear to suggest Jackson is not expecting to be in New York and away from Buss for many more years.
First of all, Jackson noted that he is trying to build a foundation in New York. He added, “If I’m not here four or five years down the road, then I have a young coach I believe in who will complete it.”
In the next paragraph, Araton writes of Jackson, “He is 69 and is not planning on bearing the New York winters and making personal sacrifices for the long haul.”
By personal sacrifices, Araton was referring to Jackson’s relationship with Buss, one that now involves alternating monthly visits.
“It isn’t ideal,” Jackson said. “It was not something I would necessarily bargain to do, to live away from the companion I’ve had for 15 years. But she said, ‘We’ll be fine.’ And there is something about being fruitful, purposeful in life.”
This comes amid open questions about who will make the basketball decisions for the Lakers in the years to come, which could conceivably create an opening for Jackson. Recall that Lakers executive vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss said out of the blue last year that he will step down in three years if the Lakers aren’t a contending team. Jeanie told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne in January that she will hold her brother to that deadline.