Bad Idea: Lakers to Ask Phil Jackson to Take 60% Pay Cut?

| by Alex Groberman

While appearing on Tony Kornheiser’s radio show on Monday, ESPN analyst Michael Wilbon said the Los Angeles Lakers will ask Phil Jackson to take a 60 percent pay cut next season. This will reportedly occur regardless of whether the Lakers win a title this year.

“I was told yesterday that Phil Jackson’s been told that not only will he not be making $12 million dollars next year, it’s going to be a $5 million dollar cap on his salary.” Wilbon told his Pardon the Interruption co-host.

If these claims are true, then Laker owner Jerry Buss is making a ridiculous mistake.

In 2009 Jackson told the media that money will play a dramatic role in whether he will return to the team after his contract expires.

“A lot of it has to do with the direction the league is going, the direction the ownership wants to go in. People are cutting costs all around the league, and coaches are obviously going to take a cut too, so they may not even want to hire me. They may want to save some money.”

A reporter then asked the long-time Laker coach whether he would take a pay cut to remain the coach of the team.

Jackson’s reply:

“Why would you?”

In a March interview, Jackson went into further detail about why the felt that money may play a crucial role in his future with the purple and gold:

“Dr. Buss said that he put some things on the line by re-signing Lamar [Odom], so it’s financial. This team has never lost money since he took over the team so that’s a big part of it. I pushed him to sign Lamar and we all said we have to have this guy back even if it’s going to put this team in jeopardy financially. At a time when it’s tough in this league, he took the step.”

Recently, Jeanie Buss spoke on the financial problems facing re-signing Jackson (her boyfriend).

“My dad has made it very clear he doesn’t want to pay him what he’s been paying him. So that’s kind of hard, too. You could kind of say, in some jobs, well I’m cutting back your hours. But can you see him cutting back his hours?”

Too often fans don’t appreciate the money and resources team owners have to invest in order put a successful team out there. If anyone has earned the benefit of the doubt it’s Buss.

However, if there is one coach in the NBA who deserves to be overpaid, it’s without a doubt Phil Jackson.

Recently, Phoenix Suns’ point guard Steve Nash came out and said Gregg Popovich, not Jackson, was the best coach in the league. Later, even his own head coach, Alvin Gentry had to laugh at that statement noting that “it’s not true.”

Jackson is a legend. He is without a doubt the greatest coach to ever grace the NBA. His monopoly on championship rings amongst coaches has earned him that label. If he wants $12 million a year to continue being the greatest coach of all time, the Lakers would be wise to not short-change him. Should Jackson ask to sit out a few regular-season games for health reasons, the management should simply quietly nod their heads.  

Too often in Jackson’s career he has been challenged by fans and other critics during rough points. Ultimately, the Zenmaster is always proven to be correct in the end.

First, he was wrong for sticking with veteran point guard Derek Fisher this season. The criticism of Fisher -- arguably the most important personality on the roster -- mounted, yet Jackson never budged. After a forgettable first round series, Fisher has shined against the Utah Jazz’s Deron Williams and the Suns’ Nash.

Then, Ron Artest was said to not be responding to Jackson. In the Lakers latest Game 1 effort against the Suns, Ron Artest had 14 points and 5 assists. The toughness and defense that he has brought all season to the purple and gold doesn’t show up in the stat sheets, but Jackson recognizes it. A usually vocal Artest, aside from one Twitter incident, has yet to speak poorly of Jackson’s coaching methods.

Lamar Odom put up 19 points and 19 rebounds to kick off the Western Conference Finals. Many forget that Jackson was instrumental in getting Buss to open up his checkbook and keep Odom around during the offseason. For anyone who wants to see what happens to a player Jackson doesn’t care about keeping around, do a search on for Trevor Ariza.

There is no other coach in the league that the Lakers would respect or respond to as much as they do Jackson.

Five coaches have shared the last 14 NBA titles: Jackson, Popovich, Larry Brown, Pat Riley, and Doc Rivers. In the last 14 years, Jackson has won as many titles as all of the aforementioned coaches combined.

The Lakers have the only coach they need, and they should recognize that. To expect Jackson to take a pay cut is an insult.

In 2005-06 Buss insulted Jackson by thinking his price tag was far greater than his worth, and replaced him with another highly recognizable NBA coach in Rudy Tomjanovich. Tomjanovich’s run with the Lakers ended with one disappointing season. The experiment did little but show that a brand name with two titles in Tomjanovich could not easily walk in the shoes of a giant. 

Jackson brings a aura of winning that no other coach in the NBA possess. An attitude that is perfect for the glitzy and glamorous Los Angeles environment.

There is no other coach in the NBA as perfect a fit for the Lakers as Jackson and, regardless of what happens this year, they should recognize that.