In late 2009, Phil Jackson intimated to the media that money may be a major factor if he’s to return as Lakers coach next season. Before the Lakers played the Nets on December 19, Jackson said:
“A lot of it has to do with the direction the league is going, the direction the ownership wants to go in. People are cutting costs all around the league, and coaches are obviously going to take a cut too, so they may not even want to hire me. They may want to save some money.”
When asked in a followup if he’d take a pay cut to remain as coach of the Lakers, Jackson said, “Why would you?”
Then last March, Jackson got more specific about what will dictate his return:
“(Lakers Owner) Dr. (Jerry) Buss said that he put some things on the line by re-signing Lamar [Odom], so it’s financial. This team has never lost money since he took over the team so that’s a big part of it. I pushed him to sign Lamar and we all said we have to have this guy back even if it’s going to put this team in jeopardy financially. At a time when it’s tough in this league, he took the step.”
Most recently, Jackson’s girlfriend and head of the team’s business operations, Jeanie Buss, said last month of her father, Lakers Owners Jerry Buss:
“My dad has made it very clear he doesn’t want to pay him what he’s been paying him. So that’s kind of hard, too. You could kind of say, in some jobs, well I’m cutting back your hours. But can you see him cutting back his hours?”
That leads into a report this week that pegged the pay cut that Jackson allegedly will have to take if he is to remain Lakers coach after this season.
While appearing on Tony Kornheiser’s WTEM-AM radio show in D.C. on Monday, ESPN’s Michael Wilbon said:
“I was told yesterday that Phil Jackson’s been told that not only will he not be making $12 million dollars next year, it’s going to be a $5 million dollar cap on his salary.”
So according to Wilbon, Jackson has reportedly already been asked to take a 60 percent pay cut even if the Lakers win consecutive NBA titles.
While I don’t doubt the veracity of Wilbon’s claim, it’s hard to envision Jerry Buss telling season ticket holders and the media that he let Phil Jackson go after consecutive NBA titles because the coach wouldn’t take a 60% pay cut.
That doesn’t even take into consideration Jackson’s unparalleled NBA coaching resume and his longtime relationship to Jeanie Buss.