Phil Jackson is not opposed to being an NBA coach again.
It is important to frame his status in that exact way, because it accurately represents where he is at this point in his life. He doesn’t need to coach again. He doesn’t want to coach again. Rather, he would simply be open to the idea of coaching once more presuming the right opportunity comes along.
The Los Angeles Lakers were the right opportunity for a multitude of reasons. Beginning with the personnel that had been assembled and ending with his familiarity with the position, Jackson was intrigued about the prospect of returning to his Staples Center high chair. That whole thing didn’t work out, obviously, but Jackson’s interest in coaching the Lakers shouldn’t be misconstrued as anything other than a desire to coach the Lakers.
This past Thursday, the Brooklyn Nets fired Avery Johnson. The move, while mildly surprising, was very understandable. Brooklyn had gone 3-10 in their last 13 games, and in his entire stint with the team Johnson accumulated a rather unimpressive 60-116 mark. Given the talent that had been put together and all of the hype surrounding the Nets’ move from New Jersey, it isn’t difficult to see why all involved felt as though the squad was underachieving.
At the moment, P.J. Carlesimo is the interim head coach. GM Billy King reportedly told him to "act like he's going to coach the team for the next 10 years,” but act is the operative word there. Carlesimo is a stop gap – nothing more.
Late Thursday evening, Marc Stein and Chris Broussard reported that Brooklyn was looking to make a ‘hard push’ for Jackson.
Sources told ESPN.com on Thursday the Nets have Jackson atop their list of potential replacements for Johnson and will make a hard push for the 67-year-old, who appeared close to returning for a third stint with the Los Angeles Lakers in November before L.A. unexpectedly gave the job to Mike D'Antoni.
Jackson's longtime representative, Todd Musburger, told TNT's David Aldridge on Thursday that his client has "no interest in the Nets' job at this time." But a source told ESPN that Jackson would indeed entertain an approach from Brooklyn and that his flirtation with the Lakers after Mike Brown's dismissal five games into the season got him "thinking about coaching again."
So, bottom line: could this happen? Well, yeah, it could happen. After all, Jackson is the same guy who returned to L.A. after writing a tell-all book that obliterated his star player. And then the two became best friends. Nothing is impossible when it comes to the Zenmaster. But is it likely? That is a little more difficult to assess.
The Nets, as presently constructed, are not good enough to pique Jackson’s interest. Yes, they started off 11-4 – but that was more a byproduct of a cupcake schedule than any sort of testament to how good the roster was/is.
Jackson might be sold on this position if King convinces him that they are working on acquiring a prominent big man. However, if the pitch is “come coach Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and a bunch of other guys,” it’s hard to see Jackson taking that bait.