Jackson Not Convinced Cavs Aren't Consulting LeBron on Coaching Search
Phil Jackson isn't entirely convinced.
"No doubt,'' the Lakers coach said in an interview with FanHouse on Thursday whether he believes there must be some channels Gilbert has used to contact his star player on the verge of free agency about a coach to replace the fired Mike Brown. "No doubt. It may be back channels.''
That was a bit of a crack by Jackson on reports last month he had been contacted through "back channels'' regarding coaching openings in Chicago and New Jersey. The Bulls job, which Jackson expressed no interest in, has been filled by Tom Thibodeau and the Nets, whom Jackson wouldn't completely rule out, are about to hire Avery Johnson.
Regardless, Jackson said the Cavaliers, who are targeting Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and former NBA coach Byron Scott, would need to present James with a coach who has a good enough reputation to get the star to re-sign with Cleveland when he likely becomes a free agent July 1.
"I think he's going to go out and try and hire a coach that would be a respected coach that he could go back and tell LeBron, 'I went out and tried to get the best coaches in the game, and this is one of the best ones I got recommendations for,''' said Jackson, who on May 27 told FanHouse the Cleveland situation is "extremely odd'' because "anybody who's in control of the decision making knows that you have to consult with LeBron.''
If Izzo, who reportedly has been offered about $6 million a year, is hired, Jackson isn't convinced he would be able to make the transition to the NBA. Top college coaches such as Rick Pitino, John Calipari and Mike Montgomery all have struggled to make the jump to the pros in recent years.
"I don't know,'' Jackson said. "(Izzo has) got a tremendous record in college. ... It's extremely difficult (to make the transition). The last guy that did it (Montgomery) was at Stanford and is now at Cal. And I know Mike. And I kind of kidded him about it a little bit, leaving something as good as Stanford. But the money is so great it's obviously the lure. But it's awfully different on a college campus. The kids are students. You kind of of have a sculptured program.
"As far as structure-wise, college has a very different set of parameters. The way the game is played. The distance. The size is almost overwhelmingly different. So there's that, and the 82 games, basically 90 because of your exhibitions. ... The multiple injures. All of the things that go on, with the travel and the back-to-backs.''
Lakers guard Shannon Brown, though, has no doubt Izzo could make the transition. Brown played for the coach at Michigan State from 2003-06.
"Just his knowledge of the game, his passion for the game,'' Brown said. "He loves basketball. He loves to coach. That's what he loves to do. He's accomplished a lot on the college level (six Final Fours, including the 2000 NCAA title). Now it's time to see what he can do on this level.''
Brown claimed to have no inside information on whether Izzo might take the job, and said he hasn't talked to his old coach about Cleveland. Considering Brown played for Gilbert's Cavaliers from 2006-08, he said he would glad to offer advice if Izzo wants it.
"But I think he'll be fine,'' Brown said. "He has Dan Gilbert, who's a Michigan State alum and obviously that's probably how (the interest in Izzo) came about. I'll definitely get a chance to talk to him but I know times are hectic for both of us now.''
When Brown played for the Spartans, Izzo flirted with NBA jobs in Atlanta and Minnesota. Brown said it would be tough for Izzo to leave Michigan State.
"He's had that opportunity (before to go to the NBA),'' Brown said. "It's his choice. Obviously, he has guys that he recruited. He has guys he has to think about. He just doesn't want to leave those guys (without a lot of thought).''
Izzo also must weigh whether James will return. Brown doesn't disagree there's some risk involved there.
"It all depends on what (Izzo's) goals are and what he's trying to do and what he's trying to accomplish,'' said Brown, James' teammate as a Cleveland rookie in 2006-07 and for the first half of the following season. "Obviously, you would love to coach a player like LeBron. But being in the NBA on this level is a great opportunity in itself.''
As to whether Gilbert has contacted James about Izzo, that's another question in itself.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson