Luckily, Colin Cowherd asked Mitch Kupchak about it in an interview, where he said:
"I would say 'clumsy' is not a bad characterization only because of the late-night phone call and there was really no other way to get around it in this business. The last thing we wanted was Phil Jackson, who we love in the organization, the city loves him, was to wake up in the morning ... would he get a phone call from somebody at 4 or 5:00 in the morning saying, 'Guess what? Didn't Mitch tell you?' But there was really no other way to do it, and you could say it was clumsy."
Another clumsy thing is saying that “there was really no other way around it,” because there were other ways.
Here are three things the Lakers could have done instead of calling Phil to tell him he didn’t get the job.
1. Tell Him He Got The Job
Obviously, telling Phil Jackson that he WILL be your coach makes more sense than calling to tell him he won’t be. Sweet and simple, that is the first way to avoid a clumsy situation.
Granted, in this case, Kupchak was likely more of a messenger than the person who made the decision, since it’s been made clear that he has a good relationship with Jackson. That, and the fact that he has a brain.
2. Wait To Hear His Answer
Jackson had until 11:59pm to make a decision about whether or not he’d take the job, so what would the Lakers have done if he’d called and said he’d accept their offer? When Jackson said to give him a few days, he likely didn’t think it would be timed so stringently. Also, if that had been known among the higher-ups, don’t you think that Jeanie Buss would have warned him to consider things a little bit quicker?
What the Lakers chose to do was as tacky as a person who commits to plans with one person, then cancels when something better comes along.
If they already knew that they weren’t going to hire Jackson, and had waited until the next day to inform D’Antoni, then there would have been enough hours to call Jackson before the media got wind of the situation.
3. Don’t Extend The Offer
The way this entire situation played out made it seem like the Lakers had their mind made up from the beginning. Maybe they weren’t set on hiring D’Antoni initially, but it seems that they were pretty clear about not wanting to hire Jackson.
There are tons of theories about why they weren’t champing at the bit to hire the Zen Master, but no one may ever know what happened. What is clear is that the extension of the position seemed more like a courtesy, or as a show for the fans than anything else.