Jackson skips parade for appointments

Updated: June 22, 2010, 11:44 AM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- Phil Jackson's hat was at the Los Angeles Lakers' championship parade Monday, but Jackson wasn't.

Jackson, 64, missed the celebration because of medical appointments he had scheduled that could not be changed, according to Lakers spokesman John Black.

Jackson has said he would decide whether to return as Lakers coach by June 27 and that his health would trump contract negotiations in the decision-making process. Jackson earned $12 million for the 2009-10 season, but sources have indicated Lakers owner Jerry Buss might ask Jackson to take a significant pay cut.

"I've got to take a deep breath," Jackson, the winningest coach in Lakers franchise history, said to the Staples Center crowd after Los Angeles beat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals on Thursday. "I've got to take some time and think about this. This was great. I'll wait to make that decision in a week."

At the parade, Lakers executive vice president Jeanie Buss, who is Jackson's girlfriend, wore the yellow baseball cap embroidered with a purple "X" that Jackson sported after beating the Orlando Magic to win his 10th coaching title last June.

Buss updated the hat, writing "+1" on a sticky note and attaching it to the hat with a safety pin.

Regarding Jackson's future, Buss told ESPN Los Angeles' Ramona Shelburne on Friday, "Phil was already watching the ESPN highlight show when we got home. I think that is a good indication of where his heart is. It's his hips and his knees that we need to worry about."

Jackson evaded questions about his future after the Finals victory, but admitted winning "does improve my chances" of returning.

After the parade, Kobe Bryant said he hadn't spoken to Jackson about returning.

"I don't need to. I'm telling you, I think it's just a medical thing. If he feels like he's healthy enough to go, he'll be here," Bryant said. "I don't think it's a matter of him feeling like he doesn't want to do it again, or he lacks motivation to do it. The motivation is there, the love is there, and if everything's good he'll be ready to go."

Pau Gasol said he hoped Jackson would be "with us as many years as he can."

"I think his devotion and love for basketball is unarguable," Gasol said, "and he'll be there if he can."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Brian Kamenetzky contributed to this report.

Dave McMenamin

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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