Phil Jackson Rules Out Coaching Bulls, Coy About Nets
At least that's the word from the Lakers coach Tuesday after ESPN reported Jackson, who becomes a free agent after the season, has been contacted through "back channels'' about coaching the Bulls or the Nets next season. Jackson coached Chicago from 1989-98, winning six NBA titles.
"I have no, at all, desire to go back to Chicago to coach the Bulls,'' Jackson told reporters before Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against Phoenix, presumably slamming the door on that.
But Jackson was coy about any chance of going to New Jersey, where he concluded his playing career with the Nets from 1978-80.
"I'd like to have a vodka with him at some point,'' Jackson said of new Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov, drawing laughs. "I can see that he's a very interesting young man. ... I never lived in Brooklyn (where the Nets are expected to play starting in 2012) or Newark (where they will play the next two seasons), so ... I've always had problems committing.''
Jackson said he has not been contacted in any fashion by either the Bulls or Nets.
"Those channels have not reached me,'' Jackson said. "I have no awareness of that at all.''
New Jersey president Rod Thorn told FanHouse earlier Tuesday the Nets have made no contact by any means with Jackson. When asked about possible interest by the Nets when Jackson becomes a free agent, Thorn said, "I anticipate he's going to stay with the Lakers.''
Jackson previously has said that, if he returns to coaching next season, there's a 90 percent chance it will be with the Lakers. Jackson, making $12 million this season, has confirmed he has been asked to take a pay cut but hasn't given figures.
"I'll leave it open and just say, as of now, I have not made up my mind about coaching or not coaching next year,'' Jackson said. "That's all I can say really and truthfully.''
Jackson declined to rule out he might coach a team next season other than the Lakers.
"Not to say that, beyond your wildest dreams, it would never happen,'' said Jackson, 64, who has won more NBA titles than any coach and is vying for his 11th. "Stranger things do, but it's just not part of my conscious thought. ... (The 90-percent figure is) just a hunch. I kind of just threw it out there as a hunch.''
As for the timing of the reports, Jackson said "there's no distraction'' to him and "not to the players either.'' But he did say it is not ideal for others.
"It's a distraction to other teams and a disservice to coaches who are really seeking jobs and have an opportunity to go to those towns,'' Jackson said. "I don't know (where the reports originated). I think people get a hint or an idea and they run with it.''
Speaking before Game 4, Lakers forward Ron Artest didn't disagree with Jackson's assertion the reports are not a distraction. In fact, Artest said he didn't even know about them.
"I haven't heard anything,'' Artest told FanHouse. "I don't even know what to say.''
Artest was asked if his preference is to see Jackson return to the Lakers next season.
"I'm not worried about anything else beyond this season," Artest said. "The only thing important to me is this season. That's it, right now. When the season's over, I'm probably going to have an opinion, but not right now.''
The way rumors are flying about Jackson's future, there just might be a few more before the end of the season.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson