In an updated version of her memoir, Laker Girl, Jeanie Buss reveals her true feelings towards the Lakers’s hiring of Mike D’Antoni over Phil Jackson this past year. Buss, the executive vice president of business operations for the Lakers and Jackson’s fiance, was “stunned” when Jackson informed her that D’Antoni was chosen over him and felt that the incident was a “betrayal”:
“The sequence of events — Phil almost coming back and then being told someone else was better for the job — practically destroyed me. It almost took away my passion for this job and this game. It felt like I had been stabbed in the back. It was a betrayal. I was devastated.”
The incident nearly killed Buss, but how did Jackson – the man actually affected by the decision – feel? According to Buss’s memoir, Jackson appeared to be fairly nonchalant about the choice:
When he hung up, I asked him what that was about, and he said, “Mitch called to tell me they’ve hired D’Antoni. He said that they feel given the personnel they have that D’Antoni is a better fit. He said they know they are going to take a bit of a PR hit, but he thinks it will blow over in a month…”That was really odd,” he said in the quiet of our bedroom as he replayed the conversation in his mind.”
Jackson appeared to be able to relay the news in a calm manner, and his only comment was that the decision was “odd”. This is a reaction that makes sense. Jackson retired after the 2011 season, after coaching for 27 years and winning 11 NBA championships – 6 with the Bulls and 5 with none other than the Lakers. Jackson had already had his chance in LA with Kobe, and as Buss stated, “Phil wasn’t looking for the job.” (Even thought Jackson apparently thought that he was a better coach for Dwight Howard than D’Antoni.)
Perhaps the most interesting and ironic comment by Buss was when she said, “I hope the flirtation with Phil wasn’t just a PR stunt. I still can’t get my head around the whole story.” If one takes the time to read the excerpt of the memoir released to the LA Times, the entire thing reads as a huge PR stunt. Buss had to be sent home from the gym because she was crying; the decision “practically destroyed” her; she felted betrayed and devastated…. And she wasn’t even the one who wasn’t hired.
And better yet, Buss and Jackson seem to be capitalizing from the life of ownership drama Buss now lives, following her father, Jerry Buss’s, death, in a new Showtime drama.
Unfortunately, it seems as if Phil Jackson wouldn’t have been the saving grace the Lakers were looking for, regardless. Kobe Bryant faced an injury-prone season once again, Steve Nash seemed older than ever, and Dwight Howard was….Dwight Howard. Since the end of the season (in which the Lakers were crushed in the first round of the playoffs by the Spurs), Howard has taken his talents to the Rockets over disagreements with D’Antoni (OK – so perhaps Jackson was a better coach for Howard), and Bryant has stated that he will not look to take a pay-cut in order to land a big-name free-agent next year.
In her memoir, Buss stated that the decision to hire D’Antoni probably came due to her father’s wishes “to go back to playing Showtime basketball.” It seems as if Jerry Buss is going to get his wish, only in a slightly altered, and much more dramatic, manner.
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