The Zen Master is in the last year of his current deal with the Lakers, and having acknowledged that his employer wants him to take a significant paycut next season, the possibility that this could be Phil’s final run in Los Angeles is quite real.
Should Jackson elect to say goodbye to Hollywood, the Chicago Bulls — who are looking to make an extraordinary splash this summer — would reportedly be more than happy to welcome him back into the fold.
ESPN has sources claiming that Jackson’s old team has reached out through back channels to see if Phil has any interest in making a return to the Midwest:
The Chicago Bulls have reached out to Phil Jackson through back channels to gauge his interest in returning to the franchise he won six NBA titles with, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.
There has been no direct contact between Bulls officials and Jackson, according to the sources, but people close to both parties have spoken and come away with the belief that Jackson would be open to a potential reunion in Chicago next season. Gar Forman, the Bulls’ general manager, refused to comment on the club’s coaching search when reached Monday night by telephone.
With roughly $23 million to spend in free agency, the Bulls are one of the more probable landing spots for LeBron James. James is intrigued by the possibility of playing with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, according to sources, and the return of Jackson would only make the Bulls that much more attractive to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ two-time MVP. Jackson, who is in the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, would likely only be interested in coaching Chicago if James signed there. If Jackson and James joined the Bulls, Jackson would have the unparalleled opportunity to have coached Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and James.
The Bulls aren’t likely to acknowledge the report, and three weeks ago, Phil himself did say that he’s not interested in replacing Vinny Del Negro on the sidelines.
His team is playing for what could result in his 11th NBA championship, but Jackson’s well-documented health issues make it so that he could retire from coaching next season, to say nothing of the fact that his longtime girlfriend works for the Lakers.
He will have to make some very tough decisions once this season comes to an end.