After Phil Jackson was officially introduced as the New York Knicks’ team president on Tuesday with a five-year deal worth $60 million, Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol had nothing but gracious things to say about his former coach, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
“I think the Knicks are fortunate to have him,” the Lakers big man said after practice Tuesday. “I know they gave him a big contract and a big investment, but I think he’s worth every cent of it.”
Gasol experienced much success with Jackson as his head coach with the Lakers from 2008-11 as he went to three consecutive NBA Finals in which they won back-to-back championships, and he also had three All-Star game selections during the span. Since Jackson retired after the 2010-11 season, Gasol stated that he has spoken to him “regularly,” but it will have to change as he’s now in a front office position with another team.
“Apparently we can’t really talk to each other from now on since I’m going to become a free agent and he’s an executive for another team, so it’s under rules that we can’t communicate,” Gasol said, referring to the league’s tampering clause. “He can be penalized. So, our communication has been cut off until July 1.”
So with Jackson moving on to a new journey, the 13-year veteran believes his ex-coach will be successful in New York.
“I really like what Michael Jordan had to say,” Gasol said. “I saw his statement saying that he’s a guy who is a great manager of individuals and egos. He will try and will get the best out of each individual in the front office and hopefully further down for their team, for the sake of their franchise. So, he’s a guy that just has great knowledge of the game, is a great leader and commands a lot of respect from his success and his intelligence.”
As for Mike D’Antoni, who was picked by the Lakers’ front office over Jackson to be the team’s head coach last season and coached the Knicks from 2008-12, he sees New York’s job as a highly pressured position for the 11-time NBA champion coach, but feels that it is one that Jackson can ultimately succeed at.
“It’s a big job anywhere,” D’Antoni said. “I don’t think just New York. I think it’s a big job anywhere to turn it around. I think you have to look at the cap room and what they have and how quick you can do it? Can you get lucky? So there’s a lot of things. I know that there will be a lot of effort put into it. Good, sound decisions. And you hope — well, I’m not a Knick now so I don’t hope — it works out for him. But it’s a tall order for anybody at anywhere at anytime. This league is not easy to get on top. And we know in New York, you’re either winning or you’re a failure. So, it will be tough but they got a good man and he’ll do a heck of a job.”
Since D’Antoni became the Lakers head coach last season he has had his fair shares of boos and criticism, even more so this year with the team’s monumental struggles as they currently sit in second-to-last place in the Western Conference with a 22-44 record. It has not affected D’Antoni in how he goes about his business as the team’s head coach.
“You follow a great coach like he was and what he meant to the franchise, that’s there,” D’Antoni said, who has heard his share of “We want Phil!” chants at Lakers games since being hired. “So you accept it and you go on. You do your job. So he’s never affected my job day to day. So it really doesn’t affect what I do or try to do.”
It has been a nightmarish season for not only the players and coaches involved, but for also for the front office, in particular part-owner Jeanie Buss, who voiced her frustrations on Tuesday about the Lakers’ utter lack of success this year.
It’s been extremely frustrating,” said Lakers president Jeanie Buss in an interview with Time Warner Cable SportsNet. “I understand why the fans are frustrated. There were a lot of injuries that weren’t expected and certainly we were all looking forward to a return of Kobe Bryant from his injury. He came back successfully but it was short lived.
“I don’t think that I can remember a season like this in all the years that I’ve worked for the Lakers. the good thing is, there’s going to be a next season and we’ll have an opportunity to get things back on track.”
If Los Angeles does indeed turn this ship around, it will have to be without the help or guidance of Jackson.
“When you’re involved in a relationship, if your significant other isn’t happy or satisfied with what they’re doing, it’s not fun,” said Buss, Jackson’s fiancee. “Everybody has to find what their passion is and for Phil, basketball is what his passion is. He’s good at it, I wish him well. The Knicks can do well but I want the Lakers to be No. 1.”
So with Jackson now out of the picture for the Lakers’ immediate future, it will be interesting to see what direction the team goes this offseason with plenty of question marks surrounding the team in terms of coaching, player personnel, and the health of their older players such as Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.
Ultimately, it is time to move forward without any aid from the man that has helped bring the franchise five NBA titles, and there is no time to dwell on what could have been. The team’s future is in the front office hands, and it will be their job to once again make the Lakers into a title contender.
“I don’t wonder about it at all,” Gasol said. “It’s not what happened and it would be a waste of time for me to kind of dwell on that and wonder about it … I know it would have been different.”
Photo Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Watch below Phil Jackson’s introductory press conference as the Knicks’ new team president: