By TNT analyst David Aldridge
Posted Jun 7 2012 8:56AM
In an unusual display of independent solidarity from NBA parties, both the agents for Phil Jackson and an Orlando Magic source denied Wednesday any contact between the parties on a potential kingmaker role for Jackson with the Magic organization.
Former Bobcats coach Sam Vincent was freelancing a proposal with no authorization to speak for the Magic, the agents said.
Stories in the Orlando Sentinel last week and on SI.com Tuesday said that a proposal that would bring Jackson to the Magic as an executive was on the table. However, Jackson's longtime agents, Todd and Brian Musburger, said Wednesday that the Magic has never contacted them about Jackson. And a league source familiar with the Magic's search for a new general manager said that Vincent was not speaking for the Magic, nor are the Magic interested in hiring Jackson.
"One, Phil never voiced any interest in Orlando," Todd Musburger said "never had us check it out, never checked it out himself. Two, Orlando never called."
Brian Musburger said Wednesday that the 66-year-old Jackson was interested in a "hybrid" management role -- a "Pat Riley-Tex Winter combination," Musburger said -- that would make Jackson the head of basketball operations and give Jackson authority over the entire organization, including picking the next coach. (That coach would run Jackson's beloved triangle offense.)
The Magic's list of general manager candidates remains at five: former Portland general manager Kevin Pritchard, Oklahoma City assistant general manager Troy Weaver, Thunder assistant general manager Rob Hennigan, Spurs assistant general manager Dennis Lindsey and former Hornets general manager Jeff Bower. Former Pacers and Knicks executive Donnie Walsh had been on the list, but Walsh removed himself from consideration last week.
The source with knowledge of Orlando's search said that Vincent, the former Magic player and Bobcats head coach, met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins, who is heading the GM search, last Thursday. Vincent, according to the source, said he had "a big idea" and could "deliver" Jackson to Orlando. But, the Musburgers said Wednesday, Vincent hadn't discussed the proposal with Jackson or with his agents.
The SI.com story said the proposal Vincent was shopping would give Jackson part ownership of the Magic, with former Lakers assistant Brian Shaw, now the Pacers' associate head coach, taking over as the Magic's new head coach. Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, the SI.com story said, would also be brought in as an assistant coach, with Vincent taking over as the Magic's general manager.
But Vincent isn't on the Magic's list for potential GMs. And the team is bristling that an idea it did not conceive of or endorse is being portrayed as fact -- especially when it has insisted on absolute secrecy from the other candidates currently being interviewed.
Vincent could not be reached for comment.
The SI.com story said that under Vincent's proposal, Jackson could run the Magic but continue living in California, where his longtime love interest, Lakers Executive Vice President Jeanie Buss, remains. But the source indicated that Martins wants no part of such an arrangement where Jackson was a "part time" director of basketball operations. At any rate, the team wasn't, and isn't, interested in pursuing the proposal.
However, the Magic is "very fond of" Shaw, the source said, and Shaw would be on the team's short list for potential head coaches after the GM is hired.
Jackson would definitely live in the city where he gets a job, Todd Musburger said, saying it was "insulting" to believe that Jackson was interested in being a commuter executive. "You will not find Phil Jackson on the golf course," he said.
Shaw, who was Jackson's choice to succeed him in Los Angeles, and who had the backing of Kobe Bryant, was passed over for the Lakers' job in favor of former Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown, having been caught in the middle as the Lakers' vice president of player personnel, Jim Buss, announced his authority as the team's new power broker.
Whether to change direction or save money -- or both -- the Lakers removed almost all of the living vestiges from the Jackson years last summer, letting go several long-time club employees, including assistant general manager Ronnie Lester, director of athletic performance Chip Schaefer and most of the team's former scouting staff.
Shaw interviewed last week for the Bobcats' vacant head coaching job. But he hasn't spoken with Vincent about his proposal, said his agent, Jerome Stanley.
"As far as Brian's concerned, we haven't been contacted by anybody about anything," Stanley said.
Shaw is also committed to running the triangle. If he were to get the Magic job, it's uncertain how that commitment to the triangle would play with Dwight Howard, the franchise center whose future with the team remains uncertain despite his decision to "opt in" last February and play out the last year of his contract for the 2012-13 season. The Magic will insist that Howard commit to a long-term deal this summer; if he does not, the team will trade him.
Jackson, both Musburgers said, is not likely to coach again, even though he's been given a clean bill of health after having his left knee replaced in March. He would rather be a kind of consigliere to a new head coach, in the role that Winter played for him in Chicago and Los Angeles.
"Phil would be very comfortable if he never returns to the NBA," Todd Musburger said. "But I think he would be very comfortable returning. There's a lot of frustration when you're sitting in your living room and watching a team try to defend a screen and roll, and you can't put your hands on an organization."
Said Brian Musburger: "He gets frustrated this time of year."
But wouldn't it be hard for any coach, no matter how secure in his own abilities, to take over a team knowing that there was a guy with 11 rings down the hallway?
"It was probably intimidating having Red Auerbach down the hall, too," Todd Musburger said, referring to Auerbach's 20-plus year reign in Boston as the Celtics' GM after his coaching days were over. Jackson passed Auerbach as the NBA's all-time coaching winner in championships in 2009 when he won his 10th title, as the Lakers beat Orlando. Jackson added an 11th title in 2010 when Los Angeles beat Boston in seven games, but insisted the 2010-11 season would be his last.
Todd Musburger said Jackson would like to be involved with the new staff, "not to second-guess them, but to help them prepare for doing their job. I think he would find that challenging and rewarding."
Said Brian Musburger: "he valued that relationship (with Winter) too much (to interfere with a new head coach). I think he would love to mentor somebody in that kind of way" Winter did with him.
The Musburgers acknowledged that there had been inquiries made by the Knicks about bringing Jackson, who played on New York's 1973 championship team, back to the organization. However, the entreaties were made by third parties -- ambassadors without portfolio," as Todd Musburger put it -- and Jackson was never contacted by Knicks chairman James Dolan or the president of Madison Square Garden Sports, Scott O'Neil.
The Knicks subsequently removed the interim tags from both general manager Glen Grunwald and head coach Mike Woodson, who got a new multiyear deal late last month.
"We are not in contact with anybody who is in any authority to do anything," Todd Musburger said. "Until we hear from people who have real authority and real decision making capability, there's nothing worth discussing."
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