Jackson to aid friend Gores, Pistons

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores announced Thursday night that Phil Jackson has agreed to serve in an advisory capacity during the team's search for a coach.

But one source close to the situation told ESPN.com that Jackson's willingness to counsel Gores and Pistons president Joe Dumars as they weigh candidates to replace the ousted Lawrence Frank is an unpaid consultancy stemming from Jackson's friendship with Gores and "does not foreclose any options" with regard to the 11-time championship coach's intentions to find a new full-time NBA management job.

ESPN.com reported earlier this week that the Toronto Raptors have ramped up their pursuit of Jackson to run their basketball operations under new Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, another longtime Jackson associate from their days working together in Los Angeles. Jackson, meanwhile, told the San Francisco Chronicle in a recent interview that "three or four teams" already have expressed interest in him and that "none of it involves coaching."

Jackson's arrangement with the Pistons, according to sources, is an "act of friendship." Former New York Knicks and Utah Jazz executive Dave Checketts previously served as a Pistons adviser to Gores without officially joining team management.

The Pistons, in a story on the team's website announcing Jackson's willingness to help, described the move as an "advisory role" designed "not (for Jackson) to assume a formal position inside the Pistons' organization."

"Phil Jackson is a friend and one of the best minds in the business," Gores said. "We are thrilled to have him as an adviser as we make some very important decisions for this franchise. Joe (Dumars) and I discussed this and he and I are in full agreement that this is a great opportunity."

Gores spokesman Mark Barnhill told Pistons.com: "Phil Jackson and Tom Gores are friends. Based on that relationship, Phil has agreed to provide advice and counsel on the coaching search and immediate basketball needs. He will be in Detroit next week as a resource to Joe Dumars, who is leading the search. Phil's role is to advise Joe, Tom and the ownership team, not to assume a formal position inside the Pistons organization."

Thus far, the Pistons are known to have interviewed former Seattle SuperSonics and Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan and Phoenix Suns interim coach Lindsey Hunter for their coaching vacancy.

San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer has also emerged as a candidate for the job, Yahoo! Sports reported on Friday. According to the report, Dumars met with Budenholzer on Wednesday in San Antonio.

ESPN.com reported Monday night that the Raptors, emboldened by the news that the Sacramento Kings apparently won't be moving to Seattle, have intensified their attempts to woo Jackson, having regarded the Seattle group that was trying to buy the Kings as the biggest threat to preventing him from seriously considering Leiweke's pitch.