Phil Jackson talks next Lakers coach
ATLANTA -- Ever since the start of training camp, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson has remained steadfast when asked whether he truly will stick to his plan to make this his "last stand" and walk away from the game when the season ends.
While the immediate question surrounding the Lakers wonders what this team will do in the playoffs, it's never too early to ask: What will happen to the coaching staff when Jackson retires?
After former Laker greats Kurt Rambis took over in Minnesota and Byron Scott became the lead guy in Cleveland, the next guy in line for the job would appear to be Brian Shaw, who played for the Lakers from 1999-2003 and has served as an assistant coach since the second half of the 2004-05 season.
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But, as Jackson pointed out after the Lakers morning shootaround in Atlanta on Tuesday in preparation of their game against the Hawks, the coaching search could go any number of directions. The next man for the job might not come from within the Lakers organization and he might not plan on continuing to use Jackson's signature triangle offense.
"It depends upon who that guy is and how much he's interested in making changes," Jackson said. "If there's a veteran group of guys who are still here, they're going to want to do things that they know how to do.
"I would imagine the coach would be amenable to using the information that Kobe [Bryant] and Fish [Derek Fisher] and other guys on this team, Pau [Gasol], have here but you never can tell," Jackson said when asked if he expected the Lakers would still run his preferred triangle offense without him next season. "That's up to ownership. If ownership wants to do something entirely different, they may shred this team and start over. Who knows?"
Jackson cited Mike Dunleavy taking over the Lakers for Pat Riley in 1990 as a successful transition of a new coach taking over a veteran group that had experienced success together under the previous regime.
"They did pretty much what they had done before," Jackson said. "He had a lot of guys he could rely on who knew how to get things done."
Other transitions haven't gone quite so smoothly. Washington Wizards head coach Flip Saunders went to three straight Eastern Conference finals in three seasons with the Detroit Pistons after taking over for Larry Brown in 2005, but was fired after the third year in part because Detroit's veterans bristled at the changes he made to how Brown coached the team.
Jackson said he expected to be consulted by the Lakers' front office for his opinion on who the next coach should be when the opportunity presents itself, but said the decision will ultimately be general manager Mitch Kupchak's and owner Dr. Jerry Buss' to make.
"I'm sure we're going to talk about it at some level, but that's got to be a fit," Jackson said. "It has to be someone that Mitch is comfortable with; it has to be something that Dr. Buss sees as the program ahead."
The league's collective bargaining agreement expires June 30 and Jackson believes if a new CBA cannot be agreed upon, a work stoppage could affect the team's coaching decision as well.
"A lot of it has to with the lockout and what's going to go on next season if there's going to be a lockout or there's not going to be a lockout, so, there's so many floating questions up there it's hard to speculate," Jackson said.
Jackson said his coaching staff of Shaw, Frank Hamblen, Jim Cleamons and Chuck Person hasn't done anything specific to pick his brain this season on his way out the door, but he has made a point of emphasis on key coaching points when the moment strikes him.
"Once in a while, I'll say, 'Remember this: In situations like this, this is what I think works well,'" Jackson said. "Or I'll preface something about a game or about a period of time in the season or just when we're going back over tape, specifically what things work and how to counter something that happens on the floor or something that happens in our offense."
When asked if Jackson would continue to act as a resource for his assistants during his retirement, the 65-year-old coach joked "not unless I'm paid very well to do that," before adding, sincerely, "I'll certainly be available."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.