Jackson finally agrees to two-year extension to coach Lakers
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he has agreed to terms of a two-year contract extension believed to be worth about $24 million, putting him under contract through the 2009-10 season.
The Hall of Fame coach announced his decision and discussed his contract situation before Thursday's 127-99 defeat of the Denver Nuggets. When asked if this was his final contract with the Lakers, he hedged a bit and didn't give a direct answer.
"I was in my 50s in the last era, I'm in my 60s in this era, and maybe I can go on into my 70s," he said. "But I really don't think so. "I mean, I'm losing a step as I go -- mentally and physically. Being abreast of all these kids is not an easy task. I can hardly speak their language, but I'm trying."
When asked a second time if he was saying it's his last contract with the Lakers, he laughed and replied: "No, I'm not."
The 62-year-old Jackson signed a five-year, $30 million contract with the Lakers in June 1999, and coached them to three championships before they lost to San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals in 2003 and were beaten by Detroit in the NBA finals in 2004.
"I think it's great. He's clearly, in my opinion, the greatest coach of all time," Kobe Bryant said after the Lakers' victory. "So when you can lock him in, that's always a great thing."
Jackson and the team parted ways in June 2004, and he took a year off before signing a three-year, $30 million contract -- the richest deal for an NBA coach -- on June 14, 2005.
Rudy Tomjanovich had signed a five-year deal with the Lakers after Jackson left, but stepped down after a half-season on the job.
Jackson had expressed uncertainty because he's undergone two hip replacement operations since October 2006 -- the second one last June. He used a cane for four months, including the preseason, and put off his decision to return twice before meeting with Lakers owner Jerry Buss this week.
"This offer was extended to me last year, and I promised Dr. Buss that I would let them know before the end of the season whether I would continue on," Jackson said. "But obviously, due to the health situation that went on this summer, it's delayed this decision 'til this particular time."
Jackson said his surgery last June was debilitating.
"Even simple tasks like putting on shoes and socks were very difficult, so I kind of asked them to just be patient," he said. "Training camp wasn't easy, but after a couple of road trips, I felt comfortable to make that decision."
Jackson said his contract extension wasn't connected to whether Bryant stayed with the Lakers or is traded -- a subject that dominated the local papers and airwaves for months after the two-time defending NBA scoring champion requested a trade last May.
"The decision to return as coach, and the decision to be asked to return as coach, both had very little to do with Kobe Bryant and very little to do with the talent here," Jackson said. "It's about the proximity that I feel to this organization, the comfort I feel working for this organization, and the progress I think we're making."
Jackson and former Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach each have earned a record nine championship rings as a head coach. Jackson guided the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls to six titles in the 1990s before taking a year off from coaching and then joining the Lakers before the 1999-2000 season.
"I've had tremendous successes and ultimately some great highs in this game, but the ultimate thing is about this team coming back into prominence in this game," Jackson said. "We want this team to get back that consistency of a team that wan win on a consistent basis."
Jackson took a 927-399 record as a head coach into Thursday night's game, including a 382-206 mark with the Lakers. His career playoff record is 179-77.
"He's a championship coach," forward Lamar Odom said. "He's got a lot of insight, a lot of wisdom. His record speaks for itself."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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