Top coach tipped for Lakers return

GENE CHERRY
Last updated 10:46 12/11/2012
Phil Jackson
MIKE STONE/ Reuters
Phil Jackson is tipped to be returning to the LA Lakers for a third time.

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Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson could be on the verge of returning to the Los Angeles Lakers for a third time.

The Lakers have confirmed the 67-year-old Jackson and team officials met on Saturday to discuss the job left vacant by Friday’s firing of Mike Brown.

Former NBA coaches Mike D’Antoni, Nate McMillan and Mike Dunleavy are seen as back-up candidates to Jackson.

Jackson’s biggest concern appears to be the amount of travel involved.

National Basketball Association (NBA) teams play 41 road games each season.

The Lakers, though, believe there is a 95 per cent certainty the man who coached the team to five of his 11 NBA titles will take the job, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Jackson has already talked to assistant coaches who have worked with him previously about joining the Lakers’ staff, the newspaper said.

He also has the support of the Lakers’ biggest name, 14 times All-Star Kobe Bryant.

‘‘When it comes to basketball, he’s genius level,’’ Bryant told reporters after Friday’s win over the Golden State Warriors.

‘‘One thing that’s always bothered me is that his last year I wasn’t able to give him my normal self,’’ Bryant said of Jackson’s last season in 2011.

‘‘I was playing on one leg and that’s always eaten away at me.’’

Jackson, who compiled a 1155-485 record in 20 NBA seasons, cited his health and the grind of NBA travel as reasons for departing in 2011.

His health is reportedly fine now.

He previously coached the Lakers from 1999 through 2003-4 before stepping aside after winning three NBA titles.

He then returned for the 2005-6 season and added two more championships, in 2009 and 2010.

Prior to arriving in Los Angeles, Jackson won six NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.

His 11 NBA championships are the most ever by a league coach.

Assistant Bernie Bickerstaff will continue to serve as interim coach for the Lakers until a new coach is hired.

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- Reuters

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