On a SportsCenter hit late Saturday night, a matter-of-fact Woj bomb was dropped: Phil Jackson was involved in the Lakers’ decision to hire Frank Vogel as their next head coach after they struck out on Monty Williams and Ty Lue. (Woj also noted that Kurt Rambis was involved, which is interesting but given that we’ve known about his and his wife Linda’s influence for a little while it’s not quite as seismic of news.)
Whether the news that Phil Jackson is back involved in Lakers basketball decisions is good for the team or not remains to be seen, but it’s almost certainly going to be tremendous content for a number of reasons.
First and foremost among them is that we will have to see how LeBron feels about all this. If you’ll recall, Phil Jackson deeply offended LeBron in 2016 when, while he was president of the Knicks, he referred to LeBron’s business partners as his “posse”. As Knicks reporter Ian Begley tweeted, “Have he and LeBron James talked about this issue from 2016? If not, that’s another interesting dynamic in LA.” (Since these comments, Maverick Carter and LeBron announce a new media project every other day, and Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports agency has put the whole league on tilt.)
Beyond that, Jackson is the ex-fiancee of Lakers owner Jeanie Buss. His tenure as Lakers head coach certainly provided more ups than downs — they won five titles, so you’ll sign up for almost anything in conjunction with that, but it was also definitely not without friction. His time running the Knicks was an unmitigated disaster, and while that’s true of everyone’s time running the Knicks in the last 20 years his personnel decisions and stubborn insistence on the triangle offense gave the impression that the sport has passed him by.
The Frank Vogel / Jason Kidd power dynamic is self-evidently predisposed to fail, especially with LeBron involved in the middle of it. How anyone could see the Bucks go from a first round playoff exit to an Eastern Conference powerhouse pretty much just by changing the coach and decide that you need to go out and get the coach who was removed, and give him the runway to plot a coup, defies logic. And that’s before we get to the point that GM Rob Pelinka doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing, and there’s at least some wonderment about whether and to what extent his famous former client Kobe Bryant is lurking with influence amidst all this chaos.
The reality is that if the Lakers are able to convince another star like Kyrie Irving or Jimmy Butler (or even Kemba Walker or Khris Middleton) to play alongside LeBron they will be a lot better next year than this past season if everyone remains healthy. That being said, they are pouring down a lot of gasoline that can combust at any time someone strikes a match.