Phil Jackson returns to coach Lakers
El Segundo, CA (Sports Network) – The Los Angeles Lakers hired Phil Jackson as their new head coach on Tuesday. Jackson returns to the club that he guided to NBA championships in 2000, 2001 and 2002.
The 59-year-old Jackson, who was signed to a three-year contract, has 14 seasons of head coaching experience in the NBA and has compiled an 832-316 record for a .725 winning percentage — best in league history. His 175 playoff wins are the most ever, and his .717 postseason winning percentage is also the best of any coach.
Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls to six titles (1991-93 and 1996-98). He then took over the Lakers for the 1999-2000 campaign and spent five years with the club, posting a 287-123 regular-season mark.
Following the 2003-04 campaign in which Los Angeles lost in the NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons, Jackson and the Lakers mutually agreed to part ways. Meanwhile, Shaquille O’Neal demanded a trade and Kobe Bryant opted out of his contract to become a free agent on the same day.
“Well, this is something I never thought could possibly happen, to be standing back again, less than one year after having been part of the dissolution of this organization and the changing of the guard, so to speak, and feeling so comfortable stepping back into this position,” Jackson said during an afternoon press conference.
O’Neal was eventually traded to Miami on July 14, 2004, while Bryant remained with the club. It’s no secret that Bryant and Jackson have had their share of issues in the past, but hopefully the two can iron out these differences.
“I think it’s a matter of trust and rebuilding the trust that we’ve had,” Jackson said in regard to getting along with Bryant. “I have talked to Kobe. He called me this morning, congratulating me on the job, and I felt confident that’s he’s confident that we can go forward. I think that was the important part.”
Rudy Tomjanovich succeeded Jackson, becoming the 20th coach in franchise history. Tomjanovich signed a five-year deal worth a reported $30 million, but was forced to resign midway through this past season because of health concerns.
Assistant Frank Hamblen then took over the coaching duties on an interim basis. The Lakers finished the 2004-05 campaign with a 34-48 record and failed to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 1994.
Jackson is currently dating Jeanie Buss, the daughter of Lakers owner Jerry Buss.LAL