Jeanie Buss talks Phil Jackson's future
While promoting her upcoming book "Laker Girl," Lakers vice president of business operations and Phil Jackson's longtime girlfriend Jeanie Buss said nothing is set in stone regarding the Lakers coach's future, but she explained the mindset behind presenting this season as his last.
"I think it's really important to him to let these guys know that more than likely, he will not be back. It's weird how history repeats itself, but he left the Bulls as the league went into a labor dispute. Maybe that's part of it. The urgency is this year. Don't think we have time to win any more championships [together]. This is really the last one," Buss said to ESPNLA.com's Brian and Andy Kamenetzky on Thursday.
"I think it's really, really important, because you can't leave on a note where you feel like you left something on the table, where you feel like you did everything you could to be there in the Finals," Buss continued. "That's a hard note to leave on and to retire off of. I think he really wants them to take him seriously and leave the speculation of 'maybe, maybe not,' whatever. [But] this is probably going to be his last year," Buss said.
Despite her emotional ties to Jackson, Buss expressed more concern about the upcoming labor negotiations and threat of a labor strike than whoever would theoretically replace Jackson next season.
"I think the investment my dad [Lakers owner Jerry Buss], [general manager] Mitch [Kupchak] and my brother [assistant general manager] Jimmy [Buss] have made into this team, I think they have many years of greatness in them, and it isn't all about Phil.
"I think that if he wants to retire, he can retire. If he doesn't, he doesn't. But I want it to be his choice. That's what's important to me."
Leaving on a satisfying note, however, would be important to Jackson, according to Buss.
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"When you look at when he came back in 2005, they made the playoffs two years. There was one year  was really difficult when we were up 3-1 and we couldn't close it out. That was a horrible summer," Buss said. "Whereas the [following] summer, he felt pretty good about getting the team to the playoffs. They did their best and he squeezed out as much as he could, so there wasn't as much regret as there was having that 3-1 lead. That's a missed opportunity and those loom large over you for a career."
Jackson is no stranger to a return to coaching after hints at retirement. Last season, the Lakers head coach openly acknowledged his indecision throughout the campaign, then said he was leaning toward retirement before eventually opting to pursue a third straight championship. Before October's training camp, Jackson declined to fully commit one way or the other, despite referring to the upcoming season as "the last stand" in a summer press release.
Andy Kamenetzky is co-author of the Land O'Lakers blog on ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.