LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lakers coach Phil Jackson says he knows what he’ll be doing next season. He’s just not ready to tell everybody else about it.
Jackson remained coy about his future Tuesday night before Los Angeles played Game 2 of its second-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, refusing to say whether he’ll be another marquee name in what’s likely to be the biggest free-agent summer in NBA history.
Yet the 10-time NBA champion coach downplayed growing speculation he could leave the Lakers for a lucrative job elsewhere. When pressed, Jackson said he can’t see himself coaching any team but the Lakers next season — if he coaches.
Jackson later gave himself a bit of wiggle room.
“I’d say it’s a 90 percent chance if I’m coaching, it would be here,” Jackson said.
Any Chicago Bulls fans hoping for Jackson’s return shouldn’t hold their breath: He acknowledged no interest in the vacancy in Chicago, where Jackson won six championships in the 1990s with Michael Jordan.
“No, I’m not [interested], and I think it’s a wonderful job for whoever takes it,” Jackson said. “It’s a team on the rise, and they showed an ability to come back after a devastating first few months.”
Jackson is in a relationship with Lakers executive Jeanie Buss, who said last week that Jackson definitely will coach somewhere next year. But Buss also said her father, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, isn’t keen on paying the record $12 million salary Jackson is making this season.
Six weeks ago in Oklahoma City, Jackson said an 11th championship would make it “almost imperative” for him to return for another season. Jackson has suggested he wouldn’t mind taking a smaller salary in return for other benefits.
The Lakers ballooned their payroll to an NBA-high $91.3 million this season in their quest to defend the franchise’s 15th title, giving lucrative long-term contracts to Lamar Odom and Ron Artest. Los Angeles has six players under contract through 2011-12 or beyond, including Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Jackson, who will turn 65 in September, has battled health problems in recent years, with two hip replacements in the past four years and a bout of plantar fasciitis causing pain and swelling in his lower legs. Jackson has appeared to be much healthier this season while leading Los Angeles to its third straight No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Jackson won his 103rd playoff game with the Lakers on Sunday, passing Pat Riley atop the Lakers’ career list. His 214 career playoff victories entering Tuesday’s game and 10 titles are the most in NBA history, and his 1,098-460 career record gives him the best winning percentage ever.