With an 11-43 record and absolutely no chance of making the playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers have already set their sights on the upcoming offseason, with changes expected to be made once Kobe Bryant finally retires.
It is expected that firing current head coach Byron Scott will be the first move the Lakers would make this summer. Over the last one year and a half, Scott has been the prime target of criticisms because of his failure to make the team competitive. After the Lakers’ 21-61 record last season (worst in franchise history) and this season looking like it’s going to be much worse, replacing Scott would seem to be the wisest decision.
Before the All-Star festivities took place, rumors started to surface about the possibility of a familiar coach returning to Los Angeles to help fix the Lakers’ disastrous situation. His name? Phil Jackson.
Zen Master Back In La-La-Land?
According to Adrian Wojnarowski, there is a ‘strong belief’ that Jackson will return to LA in the near future, giving Laker fans a glimpse of hope.
An 11-time champion coach, Jackson helped the Lakers win five NBA titles in the 2000s. However, following the Lakers' failure to win a third consecutive title in 2011, Jackson left the organization. He didn't accept any offer to coach another team. Three years later, he decided to agree to a five-year deal with the New York Knicks as the franchise's president.
It is also worth noting that the Lakers had a chance to bring Jackson back in 2013. but chose to hire Mike D’Antoni in the last minute, even after a reported verbal agreement has already been made. The belief back then was that there were personal issues between Jackson and Jim Buss, the Lakers’ Executive Vice President for Basketball Operations, and that led to decision to pick D'Antoni.
Still, it seems that the window of opportunity for Jackson to return has always been open because of his fiancee, Jeanie Buss, who is the President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers.
Jackson Move Would Be Huge For The Lakers
While nothing's certain at the moment, if the Lakers eventually decide to bring back Jackson in the near future, it will be a step in the right direction. The team will be needing a proven leader once Bryant is gone. The young core of Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell, and Larry Nance Jr. could learn a lot from an experienced coach like Jackson.
Re-hiring Jackson could also help the Lakers attract upcoming free agent stars like Kevin Durant to play for the team. Over the last couple of years, the Lakers have failed to land a top-tier free agent. Jackson's presence can change that.
However, bringing P-Jax back won't be easy. First, he seems to have no problem with the Knicks. Jackson has done a pretty good job for them so far, being able to convince Carmelo Anthony to stay and he selected Kristaps Porzingis in the NBA Draft last May. The Knicks may be struggling as of late but they seem to be happy with Jackson running the franchise.
Second, in order to bring back Jackson, the Lakers would need to let go of Jim Buss. As previously stated, those two still have unresolved conflicts and as long as Jim is with the Lakers, Jackson stays with the Knicks.
If the rumors about Jackson's return are nothing but smoke, other possible options for the next Lakers coach include Tom Thiboddeau, Scott Brooks, and Luke Walton.