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The Post Phil Era

USA TODAY Hollywood Hero Honoring Magic Johnson
In an interview with Magic Johnson to be aired during Sunday’s Lakers/Spurs game, Phil Jackson, when asked if he has considered retirement, said yes — in the summer of 2010, the end of his current contract. He doesn’t rule out coaching beyond that, saying he’ll go year by year, but it was about the most definitive Jackson has ever sounded on the issue.

I haven’t heard the entire interview yet (John Ireland had just a snippet on his radio show) and by the time the Lakers/Spurs game is over I’m sure Phil Jackson will be back to tap dancing around the retirement question. And nothing can change a man’s mind like $10 million. But I can see why he would want to hang it up — he’s had both his hips replaced, he doesn’t need the money, and he’s been there and done it all. If he wins the 10th ring in the next couple of years, I can see him hanging it up.

The question of the day is not should Phil retire — he can and should do that on his own terms — but rather what follows for the Lakers?

To me, that has to start with a basic team philosophy question: Do the Lakers stay a triangle team? Or do they go to another style?

That really determines where you go for a coach. If you want to stay triangle, you hire one of the current assistants — Kurt Rambis, Brian Shaw or former NBA head coach Jim Cleamons. If you want to go another direction, you talk to Bryon Scott or another top-flight coach.

It also determines roster moves. What Mitch and the Lakers have done well in recent years is build a team of players who have skills that fit well in the triangle (despite how painful that process been at times). Certainly some of the players on the Lakers roster now (and when the retirement happens) can succeed in multiple styles, but some may not. And there may be new players needed to fill specific roles in a new system.

My two cents are that if Phil hangs it up after the end of the 09-10 season, with the team in the middle of a championship window, you don’t rock the boat with a new system. You hire Rambis or Shaw, try to keep things largely the same, and go for more titles with the team as built.

But, if it is a few years later, when the window is closing, maybe it’s time for some changes.. Buss has questioned the triangle in the past, but if you are going to get away from that, you have to do so when the timing is right. But before you hire any coach, you need to look at these big picture questions.

Reader Interactions


  1. It would surprise me if Phil left in the middle of a championship window, unless ill health required him to do so.

    On an unrelated note, I saw LBJ live for the first time ever, vs the Warriors tonight. WOW!


  2. I think you’re exactly right. If the basic, successful team is intact, you keep going with one of the assistants. The relationships between the veterans and the coaches will help mitigate the loss of the great manager. It’d be similar to Red Auerbach handing the reins over to Bill Russell while he was still playing.


  3. Pretty much agreed on the “keep it together” strategy with the triangle once Phil leaves. I think any of the assistant coaches could still keep the system running even with Phil gone, given how many years the Lakers have been utilizing it.

    Only possible problem I can envision is the loss of Phil’s ability to corral in players and soothe egos, something which I think he was one of the best at, but I don’t think that would be that much of a problem with our roster at the time when he retires, seeing as how our guys might have matured even more then.


  4. This post makes me sad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great post, Kurt, but thinking about the future, about beyond 2010, when Phil might retire from coaching, what the Lakers will do, makes me wish 2010 should never come.

    I don’t want to think about beyond 2010, I don’t want to think about seeing Kobe or Phil retire, it’ll be a heartbreaking day for me. I grew up watching the triangle, watching Kobe, watching Phil coach, it’ll be a sad day when that day does come.

    But at the end, when that time does come, I do agree that if Phil retires and we don’t have the same players and we hire a new coach, the triangle shouldn’t be employed. The new coach should be able to have the players play their own style and start the rebuilding process.

    But of course, if Phil retired and we have largely the same roster, maybe one of the assistant coaches can still effectively use the triangle.

    It all depends, like you said, on timing. If we’re rebuilding with a new coach, a new roster, then a new playing style might be the better solution.

    Until then, I enjoy seeing the triangle played out effectively by most of our players. I just love this current roster we have, love all the players, even the boneheaded ones, I love them all. I don’t want to see Trevor leave or Lamar leave. I really don’t. But that’s a different issue that we’ll have to face soon.


  5. Concur with the above. Any of the assistants can keep the triangle should Phil retire. I know we had the Bryon Scott instance earlier in the year when he said it’d be a dream job to coach the Lakers (and hearkening back to Magic’s comments about Scott being a great Lakers coach), but that’s a widely different system being managed by Chris Paul, and we don’t have a PG even remotely close to him. IMO though, so long as the Hornets have Paul and an open championship window, Scott will stay on board. 2010 rears its head in so many ways…

    And on an unrelated note, see this:

    It was half-decent until Bena insinuated that Kobe was incapable of taking a team anywhere (quote: “he cannot single handedly lead a team anywhere”). Uh, Bena, Kobe single-handedly brought a Lakers team that started Smush Parker and Kwame Brown into the playoffs in the West. I rest my case.


  6. Ben, the Kambrothers did a good job defending Kobe in that debate of who’s better. At least the Kambrothers conceded that Lebron was closing the gap, but still needed refinement, even though he’s a physical force to reckon with.

    I agree that Bena seemed really defensive about who was better and seemed to arbitrarily dismiss anything Kobe has done, chalking it up to him being selfish and a ball hog. Not once did he ever really during his arguments (except in the end) ever really concede that Kobe’s dedication and preparation for the game is what sets him apart from his counterparts.

    If anything, I thought the Kambrothers should have used the Gold Medal Olympic game as a good example of how Kobe’s talent, skill, determination, experience, high IQ of the game, are Kobe’s intangibles, something Lebron still has ways to go in order to be the best or at least surpass Kobe.

    As for Kobe not being able to take a team anywhere singlehandedly, I would have really liked to see the 2007 Cavs take on the 2007 Phoenix Suns in the first round of the western conference. It was amazing we even took it to 7 games.

    I don’t know, I just found a lot of his arguments for Lebron were a little weak and completely downplayed anything Kobe’s done in his career. I think because of Kobe’s 81, people forget that Kobe has always been a great passer with a great court vision, back in the 3-peat era, Kobe was always feeding the big man.

    Anyways, kudos to the Kambrothers for staying objective and reasonable in their arguments, most of which I agreed with.

    To me, Kobe’s always been a student of the game, he loves it, breathes it, lives it. Sure he couldn’t help the Lakers win last year in the Finals, but that shouldn’t be a detriment to his still on going career. It signifies that it has to take an entire team with a great defense strategy to stop great players. But Kobe eventually studies enough tape, will adapt to the defense.

    In the end, it’s all about how he approaches each game, each night. You know Kobe’s always going to bring it. You know he has confidence in himself and you know that when he loses, he’s the hardest on himself. He’s always trying to improve, always trying to bring his game to the next level.

    How can we all not appreciate what Kobe’s doing right now and dismiss him as still basketball’s current greatest player.


  7. For anyone who has doubts that a sudden change in the system isn’t bad, just take a quick look back at the 04-05 Rudy T year.


  8. Kurt Rambis would be my first preference.

    Although I do think the best man for the job has yet to show his face. I think sometime between now and then, we’ll see a top head coaching prospect who trumps the guys we’re looking at right now.

    I’m not sold on Byron Scott as the right man for the job. Scott has done good but there are worrying signs there too. Unconvinced as of yet.


  9. PeanutButterSpread,

    Yeah, one of the reasons I brought it up was that the Kambrothers made a pretty good defense of Kobe while Bena was overly defensive and illogical. Your note concerning the 2007 Suns facing the Cavs in the Finals rings pretty true too. Where the Spurs overwhelmed the Cavs with superior defense, the Suns would have done so with superior offense (and so-so D; Marion was still there to guard wings and he would have probably done a passable job in slowing LBJ down).


  10. First, I disagree on the 2007 Suns overwhelming the 2007 Cavs. The only reason I see the Suns winning would be because Mike Brown is a fairly mediocre in-game coach. The Cavs personal is one of the few teams built to beat a team like the Suns, where they can slow down the game to a snail’s pace, lockdown the halfcourt, and take the Sun’s lack of interior defense to task. Look at what San Antonio was able to do to Phoenix when they slowed the game down, forced Phoenix to run their half-court offense, and let Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan go to work on Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire. Now Imagine LBJ driving the lane instead of Parker and Ginobili.

    Secondly, if and when Phil retires, I do hope an assistant is hired from within, just because our assistants have been fairly loyal and already have relationships with our team. However, I do hope the new coach, but it Rambis, Shaw, or Cleamons opens up the offense a little more.

    Yes the triangle is a beautiful offense which is also brutally efficient if run correctly, but it also excludes us from a whole subset of NBA players that can come in and be effective (Gary Payton comes to mind), players who could be immensely talented, but either lack the intelligence or the discipline to run the triangle properly. This is what makes guys like Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, and VladRad so much more valuable to us than to other teams, because they know our system and are extremely effective running it in their roles.

    If the offense opens up a little, with more PNR and perhaps some elements of Princeton or drive and kick, to enable to utilize our reliable outside shooters, but also incorporate guys like Farmar and Ariza into greater offensive roles. I’m not certain that this will work better, but I do think going away from the triangle at least some will enable new and young players to acclimate to LA more quickly.


  11. I hope this motivates the players. They have only so much time with the greatest coach of all-time. They will probably never be on a roster this loaded again. They can’t allow this opportunity to pass them up. They could be apart of something special.


  12. If and when Phil retires, I’d expect a big push to get Coach K to take the job. They’ve tried to get him before, and Kobe’s a “fan”.

    To those who watch College Ball more than I do, what might a Coach K Lakers team look like/play like ?


  13. Ummm! It seems like everyone has again forgotten who Phil Jackson is and how he operates. Phil is nothing if not a mind game person.

    He didn’t say he was retiring in 2010, he said he could see himself retiring after his current contract ended and that further coaching would be on a year-to-year basis. From Phil Jackson, that is not an announcement of his retirement.

    He may, he may not; but the only thing he committed to was that he would coach for the next 1.5 yrs. That is actually a longer commitment than he has previously made.

    It also says to the current players that they better stay on top of their game, because they may not have as large a window as they might have thought – pure Phil Jackson mind games. He also keeps the current assistant coaches from possibly jumping ship after this year.

    Try to think like Phil Jackson. I don’t say I am right, but the talking heads may have gotten it wrong again.


  14. Byron Scott gets a lot of criticism but don’t forget that he took Jersey to the Finals two years in a row. He’s tough and holds his players accountable. I think he’d be an ideal replacement for Phil.


  15. Byron Scott is a lot like Larry Brown…and even a poor man’s Pat Riley. The do well early, but wear out their welcome with the players after 2-3 years. There is some conflict in NO and I would pay attention to what is going on there before deciding to bring Byron to LA.


  16. I second Byron Scott. I love the historical continuity, and you know Kobe would be happy with that choice. I’m not feeling Rambis.

    Phil will be 65 in 2010, and I have to think he’s the kind of guy who would appreciate a long retirement. Then again I keep thinking Nellie is finally going to jet, but he’s some sort of extreme addict.


  17. I don’t even want to think of Phil not being our coach. During the live blog on Thursday, there was a poll question asking who is the Lakers greatest coach ever. I answered Riley. However, I have a special affinity for Phil. He was the guy that came in and turned a team that had all that talent (but couldn’t get a title) and turned them into winners. Before him we were getting swept out of the playoffs. After he came on board we won 3 straight titles. Riles may have more hardware as a Laker Coach, but Phil did something at a time where I’ll never forget it. And I’ll never stop giving him credit for it either.


  18. When Phil came back to the Lakers the second time, he only signed a three-year deal and wasn’t sure if he could complete that. So I’m happy for each and every bonus year we can get.

    If Phil goes out in 2010, we’re probably talking about a very good team that knows the triangle very well, so I don’t imagine they’d make a radical change.


  19. I don’t know about Byron. His style is slow paced and his offense is nothing but P n R’s. No thanks. He a former Laker, but I don;t think his style benefits our team.

    If we get another ring, I expect PJ to extend for another couple of years. I think his declaration of possible retirement is mere angling to secure that. He putting it out there for fans and media to digest and worry about.

    Whenever it does happen, I think a coach with a creative offensive mind will be brought in, but the assistants probably stay, and it will ultimately be with Kobe’s blessing.


    I agree with you about Phil. He molded this team into being what is called the most talented team in the NBA. A title from this squad would mean more to me than ANY other Chip, because we’ve watched this team struggle, get better, then get elite.

    P.S. That ESPN mag debate was weak. Not even worth dissecting.


  20. I don’t want to think about Phil leaving. He is an amazing coach. Eventually he will retire though and have to be replaced, so I agree that the timing makes the difference on who replaces him.

    Someone mentioned Coach K. I don’t see him leaving Duke, if for no other reason than job security. If Phil retires in 2010 coming off of back to back championships (I might be getting ahead of myself there a little bit), then whoever takes over will be in a tough situation. They will have to get results and anything less than a Championship will probably bring a lot of heat from the fans.

    If Phil retires in 2010, I say the Lakers get Thibadough (sp?) from Boston and then keep Shaw or Cleamons on to manage the offense. I’d be surprised though if he isn’t offered a job this off season though.


  21. I think the “Byron wears out his welcome” thing is a media idea. He has coached 2 teams, and has had great success with both. Yeah, he’s a little prickly, but whatever, he gets results. Look at his NO team and tell me someone would have them better than 26-14. Wondahbaps concern with the offensive style is a valid point, but that wasn’t his offense in NJ, maybe its just the best way to let CP3 do his thing.

    Anyway, hopefully Phil doesn’t go anywhere until the team he has helped built sees things through.

    Also, debates about Kobe and Lebron are dumb, everyone has their opionion and it changing. Especially with Kobe, people made their mind up 5 years ago on him, doesn’t matter what amazing things he’s done since. And Lebron is already the best player ever, no need to play the games according the WWL


  22. Just read the Kobe v. Lebvron debate. It seemed as though both sides thought that the 3-peat happened in spite of kobe. Like he didn’t do anything to get teammates involved or wasn’t a team player back then. What a joke.


  23. hopefully, the sad day that the jackson era will finally come to an end, will be beyond 2010. if he would decide to leave the team within an open championship window, you cant just change the system. i would prefer a combination of rambis and shaw, because i think that shaw is the right man to keep the team together mentaly, while they both know the triangle well enough to keep it rolling fluidly. rambis focus would remain on defense and bigmen development.
    the system can, and will, be changed after the current roster and its leaders are gone.


  24. I would love to see Rambis take the reins when Phil is done. Rambis did a solid job as interim coach when Del Harris was fired in, what was it, ’99? He played under Riley and coached under Phil and I definitely think he’s got what it takes to be a top-flight head coach in this league. In fact, by handing the defense over to him this year, I think Phil is grooming him to eventually take over.


  25. What type of team will the Lakers have after the 09-10 season? Kobe, Gasol, Radman, Vujacic, Walton, Bynum, and probably Farmar are all on the books. for 10-11.

    Of today’s contributors, Odom, Fisher, and Ariza are the only ones not signed for that year. The hope has to be that Farmar surpasses Fish in minutes and value by then, and we sign a cheap veteran PG to back him up. Ariza and Odom are harder to replace, and are key glue-guys that separate playoff teams from championship contenders.

    My guess about Phil: he rides off into the sunset after the 2010-11 season. Only Walton and Bynum currently have contracts that run past that. If the team is rebuilding at that point, I think Rambis takes an offer to coach a different team that will contend quicker. From all accounts, he is one of the top assistants in the league, as far as drawing head coach interest.


  26. 27, I don’t think there’s any way we’ll be “rebuilding” by 2010-2011. Even if we lose Odom this summer, Kobe will almost definitely re-sign to a lengthy max contract, Fisher will definitely re-sign because of his family’s situation with their daughter, and it’s doubtful that anyone will offer Ariza more than the MLE, which we can easily afford. Pau’s contract also expires after 2010-2011, but the only way he doesn’t re-sign is if we’re not in contention for the title, in which case we’ll be willing to trade his contract for someone in return. Plus, we’ll have some pretty sexy expiring contracts with VladRad and Sasha. Let’s just say I’m not really worried about the Lakers not making the playoffs for the next 6 years or so.


  27. Let’s enjoy this season first. Breaking up teams, be it coaches players or even assistants gets me all melancholy.


  28. I’m not sure I understand the comment about opening up the offense after Phil leaves. Phil’s opened up the offense so much this year. This team runs the triangle often, yes, but nothing like the three-peat days. We run a ton of PnRs, some isos, and our 2nd unit’s transition game rarely sets up the triangle. This is a much different offensive team than in the 3-peat days.


  29. Snoopy (#30),

    I agree with that. How much “open” of an offense do we need? We lead the league in scoring without trying to (like GS, or SSOL Suns, SSOL Knicks).


  30. Can we put up the Game Day preview for tomorrow’s Spurds matchup and start focusing on the here and now instead of 2010? For all we know Phil may join LBJ in New York (I hope not). We need to win this game vs. the Spurds and win it big so that everyone in the west knows there won’t be any gimmes in Staples….and stock up before we hit the road for a long while.


  31. Gr8 Scott

    Phil put the comments out there. I see no problem speculating on what could happen on a non game day. We’re not harping on it. Just discussing.

    And I hope PJ stays around for a few more years after his contract expires. But after he gets his tenth ring (oh, and he will), I wonder how much motivation there will be for him to stay in the grind.


  32. wondahbap, you’re saying you wouldn’t resign Fish for 9 mil over 3 years? He’s a veteran leader, a great locker room guy, and he can give us bench leadership the same way Sam Cassell did/does for Boston. We have no idea if Farmar will pan out, Vujacic may or may not re-sign, and Sun looks light years away from being a real NBA player, so why not keep a cheap insurance policy in Fish for a few years?

    And the opening of the offense is for future success, not a comment on what we need right now. Keep in mind, we run PNR’s with Kobe, we run isos with Kobe, and we run everything with Kobe. Kobe will be three years older by the time Phil retires, so he’ll have lost three years of quickness and agility, which will lower the efficiency of all those plays. The triangle helps us win as a team, but it is Kobe who makes everything else tick.


  33. Peanut Butter.

    Remember Barkley,Iverson,Lebron all led their team to the finals!!!!!…Kobe on the other hand has somehow destroyed his legacy by leading a team nobody thought would do jack to the finals.

    Phil will be back…he’ll make his own decision as to whether he’s still the right man for the job when the moment comes.If the lakers have disapointed in the post season there may well be big changes by then anyway but in theory yeah mentor an assistant coach


  34. Wow the Heat just took out Orlando. This kid Chalmers is becoming one of my favorite young players in the NBA, an absolute steal in the 2nd draft.

    Too bad we couldn’t have traded up and got him. I think he would have been a great fit here. His deficiencies (running a team) would have been covered up playing in the triangle, and alongside Kobe. His strengths are exactly what we’d love: spacing the floor, and being an absolutely tenacious ball hawk on the defensive end. I’m looking forward to watching this kid develop.


  35. All I know is, we lost Fish after 2004 and look what happened to us.

    I know it’s not the same, but …

    I don’t think losing Fish, no matter his age, is a good idea. He’ll have a great veteran presence coming off the bench for us, assuming Jordie becomes our starting point guard. Plus we all know Fish does a great job conditioning his body, so even though he’ll be getting up there in age, he can be out Mutumbo 😀


  36. Snoopy2006, Yea, I drafted Chalmers as my last pick for one of my fantasy teams because I knew the Heat needed a PG and he might get a chance at some serious minutes with them. He has been one of my best players on that team, what a steal for Miami, huh.

    This post made me sad all day long, thanks alot Kurt. Well, one day in the future this will happen to us, whether we want it or not. Let Rambis have a shot at the job is my opinion.

    Until you step out of your comfort zone and try it, you’ll think it’s not doable.


  37. Post Phil, I hope we go with Rambis. He’s proven himself and would be able to lead the team with the same mindset.

    Off topic, but has anyone else noticed how Sun Yue is getting much more comfortable on the court. Sure he shot 0-3 in his last effort, but if you watch his ball handling, it’s much better. I was worried when he first came his that he would have massive trouble at the lead guard. He seems to be a bit more at ease now.


  38. emh 101 – Please tell me you’d prefer to look 2-3 years ahead rather than a great game against our Laker’s biggest rival over the last 10 years. Sheesh – we all know Phil is just doing what Phil does best…yanking everyone’s chains. He is without a doubt one of the best coaches in any sport ever…but let’s not lose sight that we have a big regular season game on Sunday and that we won’t be playing too many home games for a while. That’s all. Being a Laker fan in SA, I’d love to see us rip this one open early and lay it on them, but me thinks we’re in for another close game…


  39. Gr8 Scott

    I enjoy talking about all aspects of the Lakers on this site–whether it’s the past (Glen Rice), the present (Andrew Bynum) or the future (Life without Phil). Taking one day to do it, isn’t a big deal.

    As for the game today, I would love for the Lakers to trounce them by at least twenty. And it would be great for Bynum if he had a great game against the Spurs to go along with his tremendous outings against the lowly Clippers and Wizards.


  40. 42 – We can agree to disagree, but I’m with you 100% on your second part. I would love for this game to have the same type of Andrew Bynum coming out party feel that last Christmas (vs. Suns) had.


  41. Snoopy2006,
    The Lakers would not have drafted Chalmers. The Lakers are looking at PGs who are 6’4″ to 6’6″. We have two short ones now and they are not ideal in Phil’s system. Also, the PG doesn’t handle in the triangle as they do in other systems.

    We keep discussing things like this, but forget the system we operate in. This is the reason Utah took Williams over Paul – because their system could use a bigger, bruising PG better than a smaller, waterbug type.


  42. No Sour grapes but this game reminds me of the game in the finals last year when a Boston reserve (Leon Powe) shot more foul shots than the whole Lakers team. (Consequently on the night all of his family was there and they even had a special spot during Halftime about how he made it into the NBA from the ghetto.)
    If you disect the game as I alwaqys do, you would notice a constant scenario of the Bobcats being able to get away with what I will call a lot of aggression (fouls) yet the Lakers players would always be left in the dust crying for a foul call. Meanwhile the Bobcats players had a parade to the charity stripe without much fanfare. Eventually when Andrew Bynum, who everyone knows doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, tried to get in on the fun of playing with a lot of aggression; He, not knowing his own strength and how powerfully Gerald wallace was attempting to attack the rim, tried his hand at being aggressive, we all know what happend next. The Ref’s are responsible for keeping the game from getting out of hand and I think the Ref’s are responsible for what happend to Gerald Wallace by not calling it the same on both ends. If the NBA and their broadcasting crews are afraid to say it or tell the truth (as they are always protecting the Ref’s) then they should only watch the fillm and see the ticky tac foul that Kobe fouled out on; then rewind a little and see two Bobcat players put BOTH HANDS in the back of Pau Gasol and push him from under the basket on an attempt to tip in a missed shot under this own basket and the three blind mice all missed it, but I didn’t.
    I’m sorry but No Sour Grapes. The NBA should clean this up soon or there will be more injuries of this kind. We are human and are passionate about what we do. Even little children playing in the sandbox can tell when they are being cheated; but it will cost any NBA player to say the same?