Kobe Bryant gets way more credit than he should for Los Angeles Lakers personnel decisions. The truth of the matter is, when Jim Buss took control of the franchise, Bryant’s say on matters decreased exponentially. That was made exceptionally clear when Mike Brown was hired without Bryant’s approval, and it was made equally clear when the team opted to hire Mike D’Antoni (whose offense is better for Dwight Howard and Steve Nash) and not Phil Jackson (whose offense is better for Kobe and Pau Gasol).
It’s also why Brian Shaw never had a legitimate shot at coaching the Lakers in the post-Phil Era, despite a glowing endorsement from the Black Mamba.
Mind you, the reason Kobe’s influence over personnel and coaching matters has decreased isn’t because Jim Buss is an idiot. He may very well be an idiot, but that’s not why Kobe has less say now. He has less say now because he has two or so years left in the league, and it doesn’t make sense to appease him anymore. It just doesn’t.
Kobe is a really smart guy, though. He gets it. And outside of a few comments a year ago following the Mike Brown hiring, he has mostly played the role of the good soldier. Seriously, go back through the archives: has he spoken out against team brass at any point over the last year? Nope.
Fortunately (for us), Kobe’s decreased say in all things Lakers hasn’t changed the fact that he has a lot of really great opinions. And on Tuesday, after it became official that Phil Jackson wouldn’t be his new coach, he had some interesting words on the Zen Master.
"It seems like all our assistant coaches when they left here, to even mention the word 'Triangle' was like taboo," Bryant said (via ESPN). "I don't understand it. I really don't know the answer to that question. It's very strange, very bizarre. You would think that organizations and other coaches should try to learn from Phil. That's what you should try to do, right? If you have a coach that's won more than anybody in our profession, you would think you'd want to study them and analyze them, but they haven't done it."
How big of an impact did Phil have on Kobe?
"I probably wouldn't have learned the game to the depths that I know now," Bryant replied.
The best part of Kobe’s entire spiel, undoubtedly, was this:
"Probably not," Bryant replied, when posed with the question of whether he would have won all those titles sans the Zen Master. "If you're talking about winning championships, that's what a great coach does, install confidence in the rest of the guys. Make sure they're comfortable in their roles and that's how you win championships. If you're talking about from an individual standpoint, like I say, no matter who's coaching I'm still going to do what I do, but it's not going to equate to winning championships."
Kobe is right, from all sides. It’s hard to look at the treatment that Phil Jackson and his disciples have gotten over the past two years and not feel like they’ve been mistreated. Down the line – the coaching tree just hasn’t had much success. Why is that the case? It’s tough to say. Hopefully Phil Jackson will answer that question himself at some point.