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Sources: Phil Jackson open to return
Updated: November 9, 2012, 7:30 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Phil Jackson is open to returning to the NBA sidelines, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the Hall of Fame coach's thinking.
With the Los Angeles Lakers relieving Mike Brown of his coaching duties Friday morning due to a 1-4 start, Jackson could return to the Lakers for his third stint as coach of the league's glamour franchise if it wants him back.
More on the Brown firing
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A team built to contend is in turmoil and a roster full of superstars needs a coach. Who are the Lakers going to call? It better be Phil Jackson, writes Arash Markazi. Story
What's next for the Lakers? Good move or bad? Five ESPN.com NBA writers weigh in.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told reporters Friday afternoon that the team's brain trust -- Kupchak along with Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss -- already has put together a list of potential replacements for interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff. Among the "four or five" names on that short list is Jackson, according to a league source.
Jackson had not been contacted by the team as of Friday afternoon, however.
The all-time winningest head coach in NBA championship history with 11 titles to his name, Jackson has not coached since the 2010-11 season when he walked away from the game after the Lakers were swept out of the second round of the playoffs.
He took last season off to avoid the frustration associated with a lockout-shortened season and to improve his health. Jackson, 67, is "getting better and better," according to a source familiar with the rehabilitation process for Jackson, who underwent knee replacement surgery in March.
"He's been in tune with the Lakers' season and has kept an eye on the league," a source close to Jackson told ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Jackson's presence never has fully left the Lakers. He still frequently stops by the team's practice facility to visit his longtime girlfriend, Jeanie Buss. Kobe Bryant often quotes Jackson maxims during news conferences. Even Jackson's two elevated chairs -- one he used at home practices and one the team took on the road for away games -- are still propped up against a wall by the entrance to the training room at the practice facility.
Should Jackson return to the Lakers, league sources feel he would be interested in bringing along an assistant coach or associate head coach that he could groom to be his successor. Jackson feels like he owes much of his success to his longtime consultant Tex Winter, the architect of the Triangle offense, and he would like to pay it forward to another young coach. When Jackson spoke to Portland and Orlando about their head coaching vacancies this past offseason, a mentor arrangement was discussed in both situations, according to a source familiar with the negotiations.
The Lakers' coaching search is expected to be a swift one.
"It's not going to be a long process; that's for damn sure," a source told ESPNLosAngeles.com. "But they're going to do their due diligence."
Added Kupchak: "The sooner the better. We don't have a timetable, quite frankly, because this happened so quickly."
Although Jackson values the process of going through a full training camp when taking over a team, a source close to the coach said that could be mitigated with this current Lakers' group because Jackson would be joining it with pre-existing familiarity with the roster, namely Bryant, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace, whom he coached to a championship in 2010.
Jackson is in Los Angeles and was seen sporting a mustache, the same look he went with when the Lakers first hired him in 1999, at a recent dinner.
Dwight Howard has told the Los Angeles Lakers he wants them to bring back Phil Jackson as coach,’ a source close to the team tells SheridanHoops.com.
(Jerry) Buss’ son, Jim, is expected to be the person who makes the ultimate decision on who the next coach will be, and the source who spoke to SheridanHoops made it clear that Buss is aware of Howard’s wishes. It remains unclear if Jackson would be interested, but he retains a close relationship with Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol — two of the players he coached in Los Angeles before leaving the team after the 2010-11 season.