Sure, Phil Jackson's last year with the Los Angeles Lakers didn't result in a championship, but if you ever doubted that he was the best man for the coaching job, read this.
The legend sat down with Jack McCallum of Sports Illustrated and talked about a wide range of basketball topics, which of course included talk about his former employers and what the heck their problem is.
Anyone with a brain can understand that Coach Mike D'Antoni's system has lots of merits, but the big thing to worry about is that it focuses on shooters more than pushing the ball into the paint. This means that the men are taking lower percentage shots rather than higher ones. Jackson knows this better than anyone and commented on it saying:
“They just don't put the ball in the post. They'll use a screen-roll to get the guy in the post. But there's no consistent plan to do it. Yes, Kobe will go in there. But Dwight [Howard] just doesn't get any touches. They've basically eliminated his assets.”
That last point has been Howard's biggest gripe since he showed his stat sheet to everyone in the locker room, and while that was as childish as it gets, he has a point.
Most educated basketball fans scratch their heads at how little he touches the ball, considering he's one of the best, if not the best (when healthy) big man in the league right now. You can't blame him for not making a commitment to the team, especially when D'Antoni has two seasons after this one on his contract.
Jackson doesn't think that Dwight is a Shaq, but thinks he can be better for the Lakers than he is right now, explaining:
“Dwight is not Shaq in that aspect of the game, drawing the double team and finding people. Isn't that true? I think he can be. But he is not where he needs to be physically because of the back surgery. He needs a year to recover from something like that. He's starting to come around, but he has a massive upper body to carry around. He's a terrific athlete, but he still has to get all that back. He's looking better all the time, but his problem right now is turnovers. He's got to have a little better recognition, and that will help him gain the confidence of his teammates and coach, which he does not have now.”
The final way that Jackson would fix this team is doing something that D'Antoni hasn't seemingly gained ground on, and it's something Mike Brown could never do: manage the personalities. Jackson said:
“It's what I talked about in my book [Eleven Rings]. Coaching is about, 'How do I get these people to play at their peak level?' Yeah, the X's and O's mean something, but you can get people to do that. And a lot of those guys have been hired. The Lawrence Franks and the Frank Vogels. Mike Brown was one of those guys. That's not a knock. Those guys know how to coach the game. But coaching is much more than that. It is a spiritual quest. And if it's not that, you don't have a challenge, you don't have a mission. Forming a brotherhood and trying to move it forward, that's the part that I miss.”
With all of the stars that are on this team, it would take a person who understands this and knows how to execute what needs to be done. Jackson can clearly do that, as evidenced most recently by his ability to contain Andrew Bynum, who it turns out is a bit eccentric.
In the interview, Jackson said he didn't have a desire to coach, but maybe would like to have a front office job, however, the Lakers could really use him on the court right now.
The death of Dr. Jerry Buss could be a thing that spurs them on, but unless they can change the three things Jackson talked about, they will be fighting themselves the entire way to the playoffs.