Jackson in line for bonus if Lakers win
One more victory in the NBA Finals wouldn't merely bring Phil Jackson his record 11th championship ring as a coach.
A second consecutive title for the Los Angeles Lakers would trigger a $2 million performance bonus in Jackson's contract, according to NBA coaching sources.
Jackson is the league's highest-paid coach with an annual salary of $12 million. Earlier in the playoffs, Jackson publicly acknowledged that Lakers owner Jerry Buss wants him to take an unspecified pay cut to stay on L.A.'s bench next season, but he also said in the same interview before Game 2 of the Western Conference finals against Phoenix that "the probabilities are great" that he and Buss will hash out a new deal after the Finals.
Jackson, 64, previously conceded that another championship -- which would require the Lakers to beat the Celtics in Game 7 on Thursday -- would almost force him to come back in 2010-11 and try for the fourth three-peat of his coaching career. Jackson's teams reeled off three consecutive championships twice in Chicago (from 1991 to 1993 and 1996 to '98) and once previously in L.A. with the Lakers (2000 to '02).
"Yeah, if we win, it's almost imperative to give it another shot," Jackson said earlier this season. "We [would] have a chance to do something special and unique again."
But when he's been asked about his future during the Finals, Jackson has stuck to his usual line about being "90 percent" sure that he'll be coaching the Lakers if he's coaching anywhere next season. Jackson told AOL Fanhouse last week that he expects to know "within a week" of the end of this season whether he wants to keep coaching on year-by-year basis.
Jackson also told Fanhouse that his health -- after having both hips replaced, enduring persistent pain in both knees and grappling with other maladies in recent years -- is a bigger factor in his decision than whether the Lakers win this series.
The focus on Jackson's uncertain future has steadily increased in L.A. during the past two months, especially because his two best players -- Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol -- signed contract extensions during the season.
After his extension was announced in April, Bryant said of Jackson: "He's a big part of me as a player. I enjoy playing for him, and I made it very clear to him today that I would love to see him be back."
It remains to be seen how much of a pay cut Jackson is willing to accept for next season and how much pressure Buss will feel to bring him back, given that Buss has so much long-term money invested in a star-filled but hard-to-manage roster that also features Lamar Odom and the unpredictable Ron Artest alongside Bryant, Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
I'm not planning for Phil not to be here. If in fact he chooses in July not to be here, then we'll launch a search or sit down with a short list with ownership.” -- Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak
"It's still a ridiculous salary, whatever it is,'' Jackson said during the Phoenix series when asked about the potential pay cut.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said of Jackson's future to ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne this past weekend: "I'm not planning for Phil not to be here. If in fact he chooses in July not to be here, then we'll launch a search or sit down with a short list with ownership.
"I don't think it would be hard to find a coach to take this team on. I would think it'd be considered a very attractive job. We'd find somebody. [But] certainly we wouldn't find somebody as good as Phil.
"In my heart I really believe, unless there's a medical reason, I really believe he will be back next season."
Sources with knowledge of the Lakers' thinking consistently identify longtime Jackson assistant Brian Shaw and former Lakers guard Byron Scott as the most likely top candidates to replace Jackson should he decide to walk away from coaching.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.