Longtime Lakers beat writer Kevin Ding of the ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER reports Tuesday that Phil Jackson’s 35-year-old daughter Chelsea recently made a prediction on her dad’s coaching status to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED in a piece by Lee Jenkins:
His daughter Chelsea, who come NBA Finals time traditionally dons her No. 18 Lakers jersey not in honor of Sasha Vujacic but because Phil used to wear No. 18 as a player, had a strong prediction in Sports Illustrated: “I think this is it. I think he’s done now.”
Jackson has talked some with his players Tuesday about the future, and Luke Walton said he thought Jackson was leaning one way but wouldn’t speak for his coach. Walton did say he ended his exit interview with Jackson and Mitch Kupchak on Tuesday by saying he hopes Jackson does return to the Lakers.
If you’ve followed Phil Jackson’s coaching career the past decade in Los Angeles, you’ve seen these cat and mouse scenarios between Jackson and the Lakers play out many times.
Lakers Owner Jerry Buss isn’t as flush as some might think and Jackson himself has suggested in recent months that economics may pave the way for his ouster.
Jackson, who made $12 million last season as - by far - the highest paid coach in the NBA, has hinted in the past couple months that he’d be amenable to a pay cut, so long as it isn’t too deep. (See nowhere near the reported $5 million.)
An NBA media source along with a Lakers front office source indicated to me that ensuring Jackson as the highest paid coach in the league is the likely middle ground between Buss and Jackson.
As for the speculation by some, including daughter Chelsea, that Jackson will not coach next season, maybe I missed something but there’s been no indication recently from Jackson that he wouldn’t be back if the money was right.
Save an undisclosed health problem, I’d be highly surprised if Jackson isn’t back with the Lakers next season. If he isn’t, a new coach will be a very, very hard sell for Buss & GM Mitch Kupchak regardless the circumstances.