SBD/November 13, 2012/Franchises

Lakers Hire D'Antoni With "Immediate Future" In Mind; Agent Says Jackson Made No Demands

Jackson's agent denies his client made outrageous demands in contract talks
There were “a handful of reasons” the Lakers hired coach Mike D’Antoni, including the fact Lakers Owner Jerry Buss had become “incredibly animated in discussing the immediate future of the team," according to a source cited by Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. TIMES. Buss knows C Dwight Howard's contract expires in July, and Buss was "cognizant he needed to do something to keep Howard interested in the Lakers.” Buss “considered D'Antoni's high-scoring offense to be the wave of the future and perhaps a slight reminder of the Lakers' high-scoring past, when the franchise earned the nickname ‘Showtime.’” But the team “agonized over the decision because it knew Lakers fans would clamor" for former Lakers coach Phil Jackson and "didn't want to take a public-relations hit.” Jackson “laughed at media reports that said he had wanted to skip road games and demanded to have final say in personnel decisions” as conditions for taking the Lakers job. Jackson said, "There's nothing about that. [Exec VP/Player Personnel Jim Buss] and I had an agreement when I came back for the second tenure that there would be complete transparency in personnel decisions. I did bring up there were a couple things that went by me that time and I would be part and parcel of such a thing this time” (L.A. TIMES, 11/13).

IN HIGH DEMAND: Jackson’s agent, Todd Musburger, said that he “felt Jackson's reported demands -- including a salary in line with his previous Lakers contracts, more say over personnel decisions and the ability to skip some road games -- had been leaked to the media by the Lakers or D'Antoni's representative.” Musburger said, "There were no demands, outrageous or otherwise. To say that he wanted control or that he wanted a zillion dollars or that he wanted equity, those were not topics discussed in the meeting between [GM Mitch] Kupchak, Buss and Phil” (ESPN.com, 11/12). NBA.com’s David Aldridge wrote the “sudden change in direction” from Jackson to D’Antoni does “reinforce an immutable fact of life in the Time of Buss: no one's bigger than the franchise.” As much as Jerry Buss “wants to win, he will only bend so much.” Aldridge: “We will never know, I suspect, exactly what Jackson was asking for, since it's in neither party's interest to disclose exactly what was on the table, the better for both sides to be able to claim they were the one who walked away. But whether it was money, title, authority, ownership or some combination of all of those, things fell apart quickly Sunday night, leaving Jim Buss, the executive vice president who'd hired Brown, still in charge of basketball operations” (NBA.com, 11/12).

CROSS PURPOSES: In California, Kevin Ding writes there were “indications that Jim Buss was on guard going into this coaching interview, leery of Jackson snubbing him if Buss reached out.” So “maybe the Lakers went into this process planning a token gesture toward Jackson that they could present to the fans.” The “sordid maybe is that Jim Buss wanted to pull the rug out from under Jackson for all his previous airing of superiority -- no matter how that would hurt Lakers fans and especially devastate Jim's sister Jeanie, Jackson's longtime girlfriend.” Ding: “Even if all the stories don't fit together straight, there is a rational explanation for everyone to make peace with the Lakers not getting Jackson back. They just didn't want him back” (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 11/13). YAHOO SPORTS’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote Jackson “wanted to humiliate Lakers vice president Jim Buss far more than he wanted to coach the team.” Jackson “had his chance, and the strangest thing happened: The greatest coach in history overreached, misread the circumstances and had someone tell him ‘no’ on Sunday night.” The Lakers are now “going out of their way to spare Jackson the embarrassment of his overreaching” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/12).
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