Phil Jackson was blindsided, and so were Lakers fans. (Ross D. Franklin / Associated…)
Phil Jackson was blindsided, and so were we.
We were told on Saturday it's a 95% chance the ring master is coming back to coach, no one mentioning the 5% in the minority were apparently Jerry Buss, Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak.
The Lakers now tell us Buss, Buss and Kupchak were unanimous in opting to hire Mike D'Antoni but never say why the Unanimous Three steered away from Jackson.
We know D'Antoni was atop the Lakers' wish list on Friday morning after the firing of Mike Brown, but with the understanding that Jackson had no interest in coaching again.
The Lakers checked with Jackson, as the "We want Phil" chants Friday night at Staples Center suggested there was no other clear choice.
The Lakers called Jackson on Saturday morning and a few hours later he was meeting with Jim and Mitch. They talked assistant coaches, trainer and past relationships.
Jackson was obviously interested in the job, which prompted the Lakers' brass to let the basketball world know it was 95%-5% that Jackson was returning.
Jackson asked for the weekend to ponder his possible return.
In the 24 hours that followed, the media went wacko.
We heard Jackson was asking for a piece of the team. We heard he wanted anywhere from $10 million to $15 million a year. We heard he didn't want to coach games played away from Staples Center.
We heard Jackson wanted more control in the front office.
Now there are indications none of it came up in conversations with the Lakers' brass.
The Lakers also made phone contact with D'Antoni on Saturday, maintaining they needed a backup plan in case Jackson lacked the energy to coach again.
By Sunday afternoon the Lakers were calling it "70-30" that Jackson would return, with almost nothing happening but the passage of time.
So what happened?
The Lakers aren't saying, but instead of negotiating with Jackson, the Unanimous Three devoted their attention to D'Antoni. They apparently concluded he was the better choice.
If so, I've now heard it all.
If the majority opinion around here is Jim Buss is clueless, what does that make Jerry Buss and Kupchak if they are unanimous in such decision making? They think D'Antoni is a better choice than Jackson? It's understandable now why they are in hiding, obviously unable to keep straight faces.
If Jackson isn't available, then D'Antoni is as good as it gets with what is available. At the very least he brings some pizzazz back to Staples, and how boring have the Lakers been the last few years?
It's certainly going to be fun to see if he can get a team of old men to run like they did when they were young. I guess all that talk about going easy on players like Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant to save them for the playoffs goes away now.
Maybe D'Antoni makes the regular season worth watching again, but is there any argument who is better suited to coaching in the playoffs?
And aren't the Lakers all about championships?
I'm all about entertainment and so D'Antoni would be my guy — if Jackson weren't available.
How does anyone get past 11 rings to pick the guy who has yet to be sized for one?
I grew to admire Jackson, and although he's certainly an oddball, he's the very best coach the game has known.
So why rush to hire D'Antoni?
The Lakers gave Jackson the weekend to feel his own pulse. So why are they doing a deal with D'Antoni at 11:30 p.m. on Sunday before scheduling to meet again with Jackson?
Were the Lakers afraid an unemployed D'Antoni might get a better offer elsewhere in the morning?
He's still on crutches after knee-replacement surgery.
D'Antoni might turn out to be just great, but it's a gamble. The Lakers said they didn't want to hang in there any longer with Brown and gamble that things might get better.
Is there any more sure thing in the NBA than Jackson?
Maybe the Unanimous Three were scared off by demands they expected Jackson to make. There were reports he wanted between $10 million and $15 million a year to coach again.
Maybe the business decision to spend $12 million on D'Antoni for three years makes more sense to the Buss family than spending more than $20 million the next two on Jackson.
What's a championship worth?
Maybe the Unanimous Three have had their fill of the triangle and are looking for something more akin to Showtime.
Maybe they've had enough of Phil, so why tell everyone it's 95-5 and then flip-flop?
Is this the handiwork of Jim Buss? If so, then why are Jerry and Mitch making it unanimous? Doesn't one of them throw on the brakes and suggest waiting another day or two to talk to Phil some more?
If this is Jerry Buss pulling his weight, then I understand why we're being told it's unanimous.
But however you break down the Unanimous Three's final decision, the feeling here is Jackson has already proved himself.
And D'Antoni is just getting started.
A kind schedule awaits, giving D'Antoni a terrific running start and every chance to quell the "We want Phil" chants before they can get started again.
But if he's not leading the parade at the end of the season, the Unanimous Three have really got some explaining to do.