One of the heavyweights of L.A. sports journalism, Ramona Shelburne sat down with Lakers executive (and Phil Jackson life partner) Jeanie Buss on Monday morning. As always, the conversation turned to the Zen Master, and his possible (eventual?) return to the City of Angels.
"No," Buss said, "To visit, yes..but in terms of basketball, he's committed to New York for many years. He's building something there. He has a mission, he's on that journey to get the team back to where he believes it can be and it will be. He's a former Knick...he loves New York, he loves the fans, he wants to make them proud. In terms of the Lakers, we have a front office. They're putting together a team...they have a vision. I'm excited to see what the future holds for us. So, to answer your question....no, there's no plans for Phil to come back here."
Sure, this is what you'd expect Jeanie Buss to say, but it bears repeating in the wake of the events of the past month or so. Phil Jackson wants to rebuild the Knicks. It's meaningful to him. He doesn't hang around with guys like Willis Reed and Bill Bradley for show -- his connection to this franchise dates back damn near 50 years.
He spent the vast majority of his time in New York last season and went to every home game. By all reports he was extremely active in practice sessions once Fisher was fired. The criticisms of Phil -- the ones that were justified, anyway -- stemmed from his strategic inflexibility and over-reliance on proven incompetents like Kurt Rambis. The dude may be stubborn, he may even be out of his depth as an executive, but he is at the very least committed.
There has been a lot of bad, weird, dumb noise coming from the usual media suspects in the wake of the Jeff Hornacek hiring -- Phil was defeated in hiring his guy, so he probably doesn't want to stay around past next season. It's ludicrous. Phil chose Jeff Hornacek; his reputation has been staked upon this hire. He didn't just throw a dart at a list of former coaches. I highly doubt he's suddenly less invested in his New York legacy than he was two months ago.
Maybe Phil Jackson leaves the Knicks two years from now when his contract is up; maybe he doesn't. But there is no legitimate evidence that he is already looking for a way out.