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Why did Phil Jackson leave the Los Angeles Lakers?

Being an NBA coach has to be one of the toughest jobs out there. It’s the coach’s responsibility to turn the roster given to them into a winning team, using a combination of gameplans and man management to carry them to success. And a team that’s losing? Well, the coach is usually the one who is blamed, and also the one who faces the consequences. To become a great coach in the NBA requires tremendous ability, but to be arguably the greatest coach ever requires that to a whole new level. But even all-time great coaches have to deal with the threat of losing their job.

Why did Phil Jackson leave the Los Angeles Lakers? Phil Jackson left the Los Angeles Lakers coaching position not once, but twice. At the end of his first stint in 2004, Jackson decided not to renew his expiring contract, reportedly due to differences in salary expectations as well as friction with the front office and star Kobe Bryant. In his second stint as the Lakers coach, Jackson left the Lakers in 2011, when he decided to retire, caused mainly by health concerns. As of 2022, Phil Jackson has not made any return to the Los Angeles Lakers organization, in any aspect.

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When did Phil Jackson first join the Los Angeles Lakers?

Phil Jackson first joined the Los Angeles Lakers as a coach at the beginning of the 1999-2000 NBA season, after a one year break from coaching. He took over a team with superstar duo Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, alongside a strong roster. In his first season, Jackson coached the Lakers to a 67-15 record, the best in the NBA, and also led them to an NBA title, to cap off an extremely successful first season with the Lakers.

Why did Phil Jackson leave the Los Angeles Lakers the first time?

After winning 3 straight titles in his first 3 seasons as the Lakers coach, the Lakers began to slow down due to internal rifts between different characters within the organization. Notably, Jackson had issues with Kobe, who didn’t agree with the team-first offensive scheme that Jackson was implementing. Kobe was already embroiled in other disputes, such as with fellow star Shaq as well as off-the-court issues. Jackson had become fed up with Kobe’s antics, but the Lakers organization chose to back Bryant in this matter.

While such issues were reported on throughout the 2003-2004 season, Jackson’s contract was also expiring that offseason. According to rumors, Jackson wanted double the money on his current contract. Although the Lakers did give him an offer, Jackson stepped down from the coaching position, in a combination of discrepancy in salary expectation as well as the presence of Kobe in the team. Jackson privately commented that he would not return if Kobe was still with the Lakers organization. He later wrote a book, in which he detailed his difficult relationship with Kobe Bryant, whom he criticized.

When did Phil Jackson re-join the Los Angeles Lakers?

Phil Jackson returned to the Lakers coaching position for the 2005-2006 NBA season, after another one year break from coaching. The Lakers struggled in the season that Jackson did not coach, especially with the added departure of Shaquille O’Neal, and ended up posting a losing record and missing the playoffs. This was deemed a failure by the Lakers, which was enough for them to reach out to Jackson to return to the head coaching position. Bryant himself endorsed the move to bring Jackson back.

Why did Phil Jackson leave the Los Angeles Lakers for the second time?

In his second stint, Jackson coached the Lakers from 2005 to 2011. Jackson coached the Lakers to 4 NBA Finals appearances, winning back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. Jackson signed a 2-year extension halfway through the 2007-2008 season, which expired at the end of the 2009-2010 season. Despite having returned to his winning ways, Jackson was wary of signing a new contract due to health concerns. After consulting his doctors, he agreed to a one-year extension, but publicly noted that this would be his final season. In March 2011, Jackson was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but delayed surgery until after the playoffs (in which the Lakers missed out on a potential three-peat). Jackson retired at the end of the 2010-2011 season. Jackson also left on what seemed like indifferent teams with Lakers ownership, and seemed to rule out any return to the Lakers in any capacity.

Where else has Phil Jackson coached?

Before coaching the Lakers, Phil Jackson was a coach for the Chicago Bulls. He first signed on as an assistant coach in 1987, then became the head coach in 1989. Phil Jackson was an integral part of the 1990s Bulls dynasty, creating an offensive scheme (the “triangle” offense) that maximized Jordan’s ability without forcing him to carry a huge load on his shoulders. Jackson won 6 titles in 9 years, including 2 three-peats, and never failed to make the playoffs. Going into the last 2 years of his tenure, Jackson began having a rift with general manager Jerry Krause, who also began to have issues with other notable members of the Bulls organization. After signing a one year extension, Krause publicly made known that Jackson would leave at the end of the 1997-1998 season. Despite bringing a 6th title home, Jackson was removed from his role as a coach of the Chicago Bulls, and their dynasty also collapsed, as Jordan retired again and Scottie Pippen moved on.

What is Phil Jackson doing now in the NBA?

Jackson had a front office role with the New York Knicks from 2014 to 2017, and left by mutually parted ways with the Knicks. Unfortunately, Jackson could not bring success to the Knicks as he had with the Bulls and the Lakers. As of now, Jackson has no role within any NBA organization.

Phil Jackson is regarded as the greatest NBA coach of all time, winning 11 rings and maximizing the potential of talented superstars. But he was eventually met with resistance at some point, despite his winning ways, be it with players or the front office. It’s as clear an indication as any, that as a coach, although you can win more than just about anyone, you can’t win them all. 

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